HOUSTON -- The Astros don’t appear to be close to calling up slugging outfielder Yordan Alvarez, though he’s certainly put himself in position to make his big league debut later this summer. Alvarez became the first player in the Minors to reach 10 homers when he homered Monday and entered Triple-A Round Rock’s game Wednesday against New Orleans hitting .339 (20-for-59) with 26 RBIs.
Astros president of baseball operations and general manager Jeff Luhnow has paid attention to Alvarez's hot start at the plate and said Wednesday that Alvarez is validating his ranking as one of baseball’s top prospects. Alvarez is ranked as baseball’s No. 41 overall prospect according to MLB Pipeline and No. 3 in the Astros' system.
So when will we see the 6-foot-5 Cuban in Houston?
“We’ll have to wait and see when the right time is,” Luhnow said. “He’s working on his defense right now and making sure he can play at least an average left field if he comes up here, because we’re going to need him to play in the field. The bat seems to be the carrying tool for him and the power is there. … We’re looking forward to the time he debuts, which will be hopefully this summer.”
Alvarez didn’t hit any home runs in his first taste of big league camp this year, but has been crushing Triple-A pitching and brings a big league approach. He has 11 walks and 11 strikeouts in 71 plate appearances.
The way the Astros are swinging the bats, there isn’t an immediate need for Alvarez. Entering Wednesday, the Astros had four regulars with an OPS higher than .900 -- Alex Bregman, George Springer, Jose Altuve and Josh Reddick -- and two others -- Carlos Correa and Michael Brantley -- topped .850. And that doesn’t include Tyler White, who leads the club with a .435 on-base percentage.
When he hits Houston, Alvarez will get most of his at-bats at designated hitter, where Kemp and White – both out of options -- are also getting playing time. Astros manager AJ Hinch is committed to cycling his regular players through the DH spot from time to time to keep them fresh, which would mean Alvarez would have to play left field to remain in the lineup. There are questions about his defense, but it’s his offense that will carry home to Houston at some point this summer.
“If he continues to produce at this level, there’s going to be no reason for him not to show us what he can do here,” Luhnow said. “His approach and the way he goes about it, this guy’s 22 years old and he’s destroying Triple-A pitching right now. We need to resolve exactly how he’s going to profile defensively, but he’s not that far away.”