Cuban outfielder Dariel Alvarez, signed by the Orioles in July, has gotten off to a real strong start in his first few weeks with the organization.
After going 4-for-9 in three games in the Gulf Coast League, the 24-year-old Alvarez moved to Single-A Frederick. Last night, he hit another homer for the Keys. In seven games with Frederick, he is batting 13-for-27 (.481) with two doubles, two homers and seven RBIs.
But despite his early impressive stats, one scouting report that comes from a credible source was not too favorable on Alvarez.
It comes from Baseball America writer Ben Badler, who covers international signings for the publication. He said scouts around the game he talked with were not very high on Alvarez.
"I don't think he was a very high-profile player for a lot of teams," Badler said. "I don't think there was a high level of interest in him. There are a lot of concerns about his hitting translating to game situations. He has a good arm and there was talk from some teams about putting him on the mound potentially, but I don't think he wanted to do that.
"Some teams had concerns about his uppercut swing and there is a lot of effort to it. He does have some occasional power, but there is a lot of question among scouts as to whether the hitting will translate against more advanced pitching."
The baseball season in Cuba runs over two calender years, starting in the fall and ending in late spring. In 2010-11, Alvarez set career highs by batting .363/.404/.613 (125-for-344) with 20 homers, 22 doubles, 81 RBIs and 65 runs scored. In his last year there, in 2011-12, his numbers fell off a bit to .272/.343/.392 in 319 plate appearances with eight homers, 10 doubles and 36 RBIs. Badler said he was only eighth-best on his own team in OBP.
Obviously, the Orioles hold Alvarez in high regard and several in the organization have been impressed with the right-handed hitter.
Badler feels the $800,000 signing bonus Alvarez got does not match his talent level.
"That is about what they gave Henry Urrutia last year and when they signed him, he was one of the better performers the last several years in Cuba and that was a pretty reasonable signing for a Cuban player at that level," Badler said.
"Alvarez, his last season in Cuba, he wasn't a standout guy by any means. He was league average or almost a little bit below, his last season in Cuba. That bonus is surprising given scouting reports from a lot of different teams on him."
Some fans have asked to compare Urrutia and Alvarez and I asked Badler how he compares the two Cuban outfielders.
"I think Urrutia is a much more polished hitter," Badler said. "He had more of a track record in Cuba and had played a little bit in international tournaments. He was definitely one of the better players in Cuba at the time that he left.
"There were scouts that did like Urrutia. With Alvarez, it is hard to find someone that thinks the bat will play in the upper levels of the minors. There is a high level of skepticism on the hit tool playing in pro ball in the U.S.
"I think Urrutia is clearly far, far ahead of Alvarez. I think that is definitely fair to say. If he (Alvarez) is on the Orioles this year or next year, I think that would be a shock to the majority of the industry."
Back in December, Badler provided this scouting report on Urrutia.
I will say the good start by Alvarez is somewhat at odds with this scouting report. At least one or two members of the O's organization told me they thought Alvarez was every bit the prospect that Urrutia is. Badler is an excellent reporter and was simply providing me his honest opinion on a player when I called him to ask about Alvarez a few days ago.
The good news for Alvarez is that no matter the scouting report - favorable or not - he's playing well now. His play on the field will dictate how far he goes and what he accomplishes with the Orioles and not anything written or said about him.