Alvarez hopes to carry Pitcher of the Year momentum up Nats system


Age on opening day 2024: 24

How acquired: Drafted in 12th round in 2021 from California Polytechnic State University

Ranking: NR per MLB Pipeline, NR per Baseball America

* Projected by MLB Pipeline

Signing bonus: $125,000

2023 levels: High-A Wilmington and Double-A Harrisburg

2023 stats: 7-7, 2.99 ERA, 26 G, 22 GS, 129 ⅓ IP, 108 H, 52 R, 43 ER, 9 HR, 43 BB, 116 SO, 7 HBP, 1.168 WHIP

Quotable: “It didn't really feel like a huge adjustment. Last year, I was doing a little bit of both. And then before the year, kind of came in, was possibly going to be the same situation. And I started in college towards the back end. So it's pretty much just continuing to make sure I was getting my body right and being able to withstand a long season.” – Andrew Alvarez on mostly starting this year

2023 analysis: As a 12th-round pick, Alvarez caught the attention of some eyes within the organization early in his professional career.

After being selected out of Cal Poly in 2021, the left-hander completed five scoreless outings with six strikeouts over six innings at Single-A Fredericksburg before the end of the summer. The following year, he went 4-5 with a 4.53 ERA, 1.437 WHIP and 72 strikeouts in 55 ⅔ innings over 15 appearances (six starts) with the FredNats before getting promoted to Wilmington.

Alvarez struggled in his first stint at High-A, going 0-2 with a 5.90 ERA and 1.552 WHIP over 13 appearances (two starts). But he came back this year with a strong campaign at Wilmington to earn him a bump up to Harrisburg.

The 24-year-old went 7-4 with a 2.61 ERA, 1.161 WHIP, 96 strikeouts and 32 walks in 21 games, 18 of which were starts, with the Blue Rocks. He struck out a career-high 11 batters over eight not-hit innings in his final start before moving up to Double-A in August.

He struggled a bit over his five outings (four starts) with the Senators before season’s end, going 0-3 with a 4.50 ERA and 1.192 WHIP. But he did have one strong outing with only two earned runs, seven strikeouts and no walks over 5 ⅔ innings of relief on Aug. 24.

Going 7-7 with a 2.99 ERA, 116 strikeouts and 43 walks over 129 ⅓ innings across 26 games (22 starts) between Wilmington and Harrisburg earned Alvarez the Nats’ minor league Pitcher of the Year honors at the end of the season.

Alvarez finished the season ranked first in ERA and WHIP (1.168), tied for first in innings pitched, and second in strikeouts and opponents’ average (.229) in the Nats’ minor league system. It marked the first time a Nationals pitcher recorded a sub-3.00 ERA in a full minor league season since 2018.

2024 outlook: The one and only true Nats prospect not ranked in the top 30 by neither MLB Pipeline nor Baseball America, Alvarez surely will find himself on some top lists to start next season.

Alvarez impressed in his first full season as mainly a starter since his last year at Cal Poly. His strikeout numbers continue to be strong: 22.1 strikeout, 8.1 K/9 and 2.70 K/BB rates. And he does a good job of keeping the ball in the yard (though he could have been aided by his home ballpark at Wilmington, which is notorious for being a tough place to hit): He only allowed nine home runs all season for a 0.6 HR/9 rate.

He did, however, struggle with limiting baserunners. He had 7.5 hits-per-nine innings and 3.0 BB/9 rates while also hitting seven batters. That could be related to common control issues that most young pitchers have early in their careers as he also threw 13 wild pitches (a tick down from the 14 he threw last year).

Nevertheless, the southpaw showed immense potential this year, especially as a late-round draft pick.

Alvarez should not only fly up some prospect rankings next year, but he should also move up the organizational ladder as well.

He has reached a new minor league level each year in the Nats system, which lacks elite prospect depth at the upper levels. Once Cade Cavalli (and possibly Jackson Rutledge) graduates from prospect status next year, the highest level a Nats pitching prospect has reached will be DJ Herz at Double-A (also assuming Cole Henry still needs time to recover from thoracic outlet syndrome).

Along with Herz, Alvarez may be the only lefty to advance up the system next year with Jake Bennett recovering from Tommy John surgery. We still have to wait for MLB Pipeline to put its official MLB ETA date next to Alvarez’s name, but if he keeps this momentum, it’ll be sooner rather than later.

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