Culture / Sporting Life

Yordan Alvarez Ends the Rookie of the Year Debate, J.J. Watt Becomes His No. 1 Publicist

Houston's Newest Sports Star is Making Powerful Fans

BY // 08.11.19

Yordan Alvarez is bringing the wonder back to the home run. The long ball’s been somewhat cheapened in this season of super juiced baseballs, but Alvarez returns the thrill of it all.

Alvarez’s home runs are not just plentiful. They’re majestic. He hit three more in Baltimore Saturday night, a combined 1,270 feet of home runs in a 23-2 laughter of a win for the Houston Astros. Just like that, you can call the American League Rookie of the Year race.

This Cuban slugger is doing things that no one else in baseball has ever done. Alvarez now has 51 RBI in his first 46 Major League Baseball games, breaking a record co-held by Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio. There is heady company and then there’s legendary company.

Even J.J. Watt is declaring the Rookie of the Year debate over, tweeting enthusiastically about Houston’s newest sports star.

Earlier in the week, Alvarez brushed off any award talk.

“It’s not my decision,” the big man who speaks through a translator for Spanish-challenged reporters says. “I’m focused on my work.”

Alvarez views his work rather simply. Hit baseballs damn hard. The home runs (and the 22-year-old has 17 of them now in those 46 games) are just a loud byproduct of that.

“Really, I don’t focus on that,” Alvarez says. “I try to find a good pitch and hit it hard.”

Alvarez’s hard shots add up to a .355 batting average (including his first infield hit in the ninth inning of Sunday’s walkoff lost) — and the type of nightly shock and awe show that many expected Vladimir Guerrero Jr, the presumed AL Rookie of the Year coming into the season, to deliver. Don’t get us wrong. Vlad Jr. has delivered plenty of wows, including arguably the greatest Home Run Derby show of all time, at age 20.

But he has not been close to as consistent as Alvarez.

The Astros rookie just seems to fall out of bed, smashing balls hard somewhere. But that belies the work and studying he already puts into it as a young player. Alvarez knows the ins and outs of the pitchers he’s facing.

He never goes up there, swinging blind. There is always a plan of attack.

“His approach at such a young age is what sets him apart,” says Astros shortstop Carlos Correa, who knows a thing or two about the pressure of being a phenom. “He’s young, powerful and has a great swing. That’s what makes him so special.

“He goes out there and he knows he’s good. And he acts like it.”

Still, mounting evidence to the contrary aside, Yordan Alvarez dismisses the notion that he’s already possesses some of the best pure power in Major League Baseball.

“See a lot of players,” he says when asked who has more power than him. “I see a lot of it in the Big Leagues.”

Juiced baseballs do not matter to some players. This 6-foot-2, 227-pound hulk of a man would hit any type of ball out of parks regularly.

In many ways, Alvarez has energized this entire, superstar-packed Astros lineup. Houston’s vets get a kick out of him for good reason. They love his quiet, powerful confidence. How no moment seems too big for him.

Yordan Alvarez has only been with the Houston Astros for two months and two days. And he’s already changed so much. And made Houston’s biggest sports icon a vocal fan.

This is your 2019 AL Rookie of the Year. And then some.

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