This reliever just barely missed the top ten, but is worthy of making it. When we totalled the votes, we were actually upset with ourselves that he fell down the 11th prospect in our count, but R.J. Alvarez is a very special gem in the Angels system. With a top notch fastball, and some decent off-speed pitches, he is set for a glorious future with the Angels organization.
Alvarez has one of the better fastballs in the system, and was the main reason the Angels liked him so much. It sits at 95 miles per hour pretty consistantly, but he has fired back and had it hit 97 at points. What's so special about Alvarez's fastball is the explosiveness and movement of the pitch.
Off-speed is where you tend to find conflicting reports on Alvarez. He has a slider that some call a "plus" and some call a "below average" pitch. We at Inside The Halos believe that Alvarez's slider is a plus pitch. It has a late break with a heavy spin and sits anywhere between 83-85.
Alvarez also has a changeup, just to keep batters guessing and to mix pitches well. This pitch has developed well over the past year, and has been an effective two-strike pitch and get out a jam pitch for Alvarez. It sits in the low 80's.
Alvarez's main problem is commanding his off-speed pitches. It isn't necessarily poor, but more along the lines of average. When it comes to his fastball, he had struggles this past season at the high elevation parks, and keeping the ball low. He compensated for this by over throwing the ball, which made it fall out of the zone more than he'd have liked.
Alvarez throws not necessarily from a low enough arm slot to be a sidearm, but not high enough to be a 3/4, so we'll say he's a 3/5 delivery kind of guy. He tends to fall off the mound after each pitch with his quick release. With this, his mechanics are good as a reliever, but not for any potential starting role.
Alvarez has had zero problems in the statistical department. Coming out of the draft in 2012, he jumped right in to Low-A. There, he posted a 3.29 earned run average with a 1.207 WHIP, mostly effected by his walk count. However, with his walk count at 3.6 per nine, he also struck out 12.5 per nine.
Alvarez spent 2013 in the hitter friendly confines of the California League. It helped that he was in a pitcher friendly park with the Inland Empire 66ers, but he excelled even on the road with some of the best numbers the team has seen in recent years. By the end of his 37 appearances, Alvarez not only posted, but BOASTED a 2.96 earned run average with his WHIP taking a small step up at 1.253, mostly due to his walk count raising by one and a half per nine. Alvarez's strikeout totals were incredible though, as he K'd 14.6 per nine. Along with that, Alvarez allowed just two home runs over the season.
EXPECTED OF THE FUTURE:
There is no doubt Alvarez has a Major League future. But, he has to take his steps to the top, starting with a trip to Double-A out of Spring Training in 2014. The Angels are taking an aggressive step with Alvarez putting him directly in to Single-A out of the draft, but also have given him full seasons at each level, so we doubt he'll spend much, or any time in Triple-A in 2014. However, 2015 should be his year to shine with another successful season like the two previous.
Like we said, Alvarez will be a Major Leaguer in the near future. His estimated time of arrival from us, and many scouts is 2016, when he'll be 25-years-old. With the pitches and talent this young man has, he should be a setup man. He has the pitches to be a closer, but it is more likely that he'll be a setup man with the Angels. Regardless, Alvarez is set to be something special in the Angels system, and with the big club.
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