Culture / Sporting Life

Yordan Alvarez Makes Home Runs Look Way Too Easy — Astros’ New Star Smashes Debut Test

21-Year-Old Cuban Slugger Proves He's More Than Ready

BY // 06.10.19

You’re not supposed to be able to just conjure up Major League home runs on demand. As Alex Bregman reminds, “It’s not that easy.” Only, there is Yordan Alvarez in his Big League debut, dutifully launching the bomb to left center that the 35,621 souls at Minute Maid Park came out to see.

Alvarez may as well be queuing up the next episode in a Netflix series, just hitting skip credits. That’s how taxing he makes homering in the Majors on command seem.

“Exactly what you saw today is what he’s been doing for however long the season’s been going (in Triple A),” Astros outfielder Derek Fisher tells PaperCity of his former Round Rock Express teammate. “I’ve been seeing that since I’ve been playing with the guy.

“For him to do that second at-bat is… I don’t want to say it was expected. But I can say, I’m not surprised.”

No one is. It is almost like everyone in the ballpark expects this 21-year-0ld to hit a home run. And Yordan Alvarez does. That’s crazy. That’s the stuff of baseball stories from the 1920s that everyone assumes are partially made up.

“I don’t know how many people were in the stadium today but they all can take credit for probably saying, ‘Hey, he’s going to homer,’ ” Astros manager A.J. Hinch says after Alvarez’s debut long ball powers his team to a 4-0 win. “And he delivers. That’s an incredible performance from him.

“When all anybody wanted today was a home run from him. That’s what everybody expected. And he did it.”

Yordan Alvarez did not just do it. He absolutely crushed it. He deposited a change-up from Baltimore Orioles starter Dylan Bundy — a five-year veteran making his 86th career start — near the Phillips 66 home run gas pump in left center, 413 feet from home plate. Alvarez’s blast rocketed out at a 107 MPH exit velocity. (For comparison, Aaron Judge averaged a 111 MPH exit velocity on his 2017 home runs.)

Alvarez is a big man (though at 6-foot-5, 225 pounds he’s not quite Aaron Judge huge) who might turn out to be Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow’s biggest steal yet (Luhnow traded for an age 19 Alvarez in exchange for Josh Fields, the definition of an unremarkable reliever).

No one tabbed Yordan Alvarez as a can’t-miss prospect until this year. But now he just might be the second most exciting (and anticipated) call-up in baseball this season, trailing only Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who’s only been hyped for practically his entire life.

This is a meteoritic rise for Alvarez, who found himself completely overshadowed by Kyle Tucker in the Astros system just last summer.

Welcome to The Show, kid. Now, go hit a dinger.

“This is all new for him,” Hinch says. “Don’t confuse his size for his age.”

Yordan Alvarez, Game Changer

It takes two at bats for Alvarez to completely change a game with one swing. The Astros have only one hit against a horrific Orioles team, the day after they only managed four singles total in a loss to Baltimore, when Alvarez steps in against Bundy in the bottom of the third.

It’s an at-bat that makes even the Astros’ established all-stars take notice. Alvarez lays off a first-pitch four-seam fastball just out of the zone that Bundy is just daring him to chase. And clobbers the change-up he is hunting on the very next pitch.

“I think if you go 1-0, change up, oppo (opposite field), upper tank, it’s a decent day,” Bregman says, breaking into a grin.

It is almost like everyone in the ballpark expects this 21-year-0ld to hit a home run. And Yordan Alvarez does. That’s crazy.

The only one who doesn’t seem giddy about the whole thing — and what it means for the best team in baseball’s lineup — is Alvarez himself. He doesn’t seem beyond pumped like a Jack Mayfield. After hitting .343 with 23 home runs and 71 RBI in 56 Triple A games, Alvarez acts like he expects to be the Bigs on June 9.

In truth, he probably expected to be in Houston weeks ago.

“Very happy, very happy obviously,” Alvarez says through a translator. “It’s a great moment.”

As Alvarez says this, he stands there as stoic as ever. Yordan Alvarez is here to tattoo baseballs.

“He’s super, super calm and he knows how to hit,” Fisher says. “There’s not much to say to him. Just watching him for a little bit, you know that’s got an idea of what he’s doing.

The Astros are a better team today than they were just 48 hours ago because Yordan Alvarez is in the lineup, bringing real presence and power. Alvarez wears No. 44, the same number another powerful slugger (Reggie Jackson) wore with the Yankees.

This Cuban slugger does not have Mr. October’s showmanship, though. Alvarez just hits and moves on to the next game, He’s an Astro now and you can expect him to stay for a while.

“I do know he’s an awesome guy,” Fisher tells PaperCity. “He’s going to fit in here just fine.”

He already is. One impressive swing at a time.

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