At 26 years old, Orioles’ outfield prospect Dariel Alvarez is somewhat overlooked due to his age. MLB.com did not even list him in the Orioles Top 30 list at the start of the season, but the Cuban outfielder does have the potential to be an important part of the Orioles’ future.
When the Orioles signed Alvarez out of Cuba, his bat was viewed as a potential weakness among the other teams that scouted him, but in 171 career minor league games, Alvarez has batted a solid .304 with 21 home runs and a .473 slugging percentage. Last season, with Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk, Alvarez slashed .306/.330./.482 with 15 home runs, 87 RBI, and only 62 strikeouts in 532 at-bats.
Alvarez impressed in Spring Training with a .343/.395/.600 slash line in 35 at-bats. He hit two home runs and struck out only three times. After a slow start to the 2015 season with Norfolk, Alvarez has begun to heat up. Over his last eight games, Alvarez is batting .324 (11-34) with two home runs. Four of those games have seen Alvarez collect multiple hits.
Alvarez will likely warrant a September call-up for the Orioles if he continues producing as he did in 2014. Alvarez will never be a superstar for the Orioles, but he will be a serviceable fourth outfielder, and may offer the Orioles more pop than David Lough and a better contact rate than Alejandro De Aza. If De Aza continues to struggle at the plate, Alvarez may find himself called up sooner rather than later. Manager Buck Showalter has not given Lough much playing time this season, and he may be locked into a late-inning defensive substitution role. Alvarez is a more attractive option for the Orioles than Nolan Reimold, whose defensive abilities are lacking when compared to Alvarez’s.
The Orioles’ lineup has produced very well this season at all positions except left field. De Aza and Steve Pearce got off to hot starts, but both have struggled mightily since. Alvarez has produced well at each level of his minor league career, and as his bat heats up with Norfolk, I expect the Orioles to reward him with a call to The Show. Alvarez is not going to steal the headlines like fellow Cuban outfielders Yasiel Puig or Yoenis Cespedes, but he has shown the potential to be a capable Major League outfielder and could prove to be very valuable should Orioles left fielders continue to struggle.