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For Dario Alvarez, yesterday’s news opens yet another opportunity for the Dominican-born lefty to finally get a sustained look. For the Braves, it’s another example in the long line of throwing enough junk against the wall in hopes that some of it will stick.
Alvarez has been around for a long time. 27 years-old, Alvarez first appeared in professional ball with the Phillies’ Dominican Summer League team in 2007. He spent three years trying to break through, but ultimately wore out his welcome and was cut after the ’09 campaign. For three years, Alvarez languished in baseball purgatory before finally landing a job with Caribes de Anzoategui of the Venezualan Winter League. He didn’t get much work there, but two months later, he was signed by the Mets for the 2012 season.
Already 23 with three years of experience in rookie ball, but none since 2009, finding a spot for Alvarez was not easy. The Mets started him with Brooklyn of the Short-Season A New York-Penn League. He looked good in a dozen starts, though you should do well when 97.8% of all batters you face are younger than you.
2014 was a big year for Alvarez. He opened the season with twenty stellar games in mostly relief work with Savannah (Sally League). Mixed in was a little work with St. Lucie before spending mid-August with Binghamton. His quick rise up the chain was highlighted by a September callup to the majors. Two years before, it looked like his career was done. Now, he was in the Show. He was used as a lefty specialist three times to some success (retired two-of-three batters) before being given an inning of work in his fourth game of the year. With the Nats blowing out the Mets, Alvarez struggled to put away the visiting team in the ninth. He gave up a double, but got the next two. However, Denard Span homered – which about says all you need to know. After another hit, Alvarez was removed and his season came to a close as he was not used again. He did get some action in the Arizona Fall League.
Alvarez would spend much of 2015 in the minors, split between Double-A and Triple-A. He continued to display great strikeout numbers, occasionally spotty control, and avoided homeruns. That was until he got back to the bigs to close out the year. Alvarez was utilized in a game against the Braves in which a runner was already on in a tie game in the 8th. After a sacrifice, Alvarez hit Nick Swisher. He got the second out, but Daniel Castro singled in a run. After a walk loaded the bases, Alvarez was removed but his ERA would take a hit when Adonis Garcia singled in a pair off Bobby Parnell. In true Braves fashion, with the Braves one out away from beating the eventual NL Champs 7-4, the Braves bullpen imploded and the Mets tied it on a three-run homer and won it with three runs off the immortal Edwin Jackson and Danny Burawa in the tenth.
Alvarez would give up homers in two of his next (and final) three outings and rather than get time as a left-hand specialist, he was a used in losing efforts. He wouldn’t get much of a look this spring, appearing in just two games and walking five. He was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas where his problems only worsened. While he struck out 27 over 15.1 innings, he also walked ten and gave up three homers (or 33% of his career total in the minors). Las Vegas and the PCL in general are terrible places to pitch, but this was really bad. Needing room on the 40-man, New York waived and designated Alvarez on the 23rd. Two days later, the Braves claimed him.
Alvarez throws a four-seam fastball and a slider pretty much all the time, though a cut-fastball and a changeup have been charted by Brooks Baseball (but only 11 times between the two). The fourseamer typically comes humming in at about 91 mph with Alvarez having a max giddy-up of about 94 mph. The slider slips into the low 80’s. The fourseamer gets a little sinking action, but is not his strikeout pitch. The slider has a sharp cut at the end that bites into right-handers and away from lefties. Neither pitch are plus pitches and righties will feast on him if his control isn’t pinpoint, making him a much better option against lefthanders. He telegraphs his pitches a bit in the follow-through, though that helps us – the viewer – much more than the batter. He too often gets a whip-like follow-through on his fastballs as if he’s trying to overthrow it. This herky-jerky addition to his delivery seems like something he may have adopted to increase his average velocity as footage of Alvarez before signing didn’t have much of a difference between his delivery on fastballs or sliders.
Like any number of fringy southpaws, Alvarez’s game could be tweaked and he could find success. Clearly, the Mets had seen enough, but Atlanta can take a chance that something clicks. He’ll be worth a look this summer in Gwinnett to see if he takes to Braves’ coaching and starts to get outs.