Few players in all of baseball have as much raw power as Houston Astros rookie Yordan Alvarez. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Alex Bregman and Yordan Alvarez know how to bring the power. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Yordan Alvarez collects RBIs the way kids used to collect baseball cards. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Yordan Alvarez's booming bat is creating baseball shock and awe. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Yordan Alvarez ended his first game in the Major Leagues with a .500 on-base percentage. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Yordan Alvarez brings plenty of power to the Houston Astros' lineup. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Yordan Alvarez is a big man (6-foot-5) who just may be Astros' general manager Jeff Luhnow's biggest steal yet. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Everyone expected Yordan Alvarez to hit a home run in his Big League debut — and he somehow did. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Do something special or surprising in 2019 and you’re bound to pick up your share of haters. And even some friendly skeptics. Yordan Alvarez, the Houston Astros’ American League Rookie of the Year shoo-in, is doing things that only Ted Williams did before, so he’s guaranteed to catch some.
Like the sports radio host who half joked, half charged that Alvarez has to be at least 30 years old. That there is no way he can look this imposing and be this good at age 21 and 22.
“Everybody jokes about that,” Alvarez says in the Astros’ clubhouse. “Even our teammates joke about that a lot. But I checked with my mom and she says that I am who I am. And I’m my age.
“So I’m not too worried about that.”
This Cuban slugger does not seem to worry about much. Alvarez will make his playoff debut this afternoon at a buzzing Minute Maid Park, hitting in the heart of the order for baseball’s best team, at age 22. His ability to change games with one booming swing will stress Tampa Bay Rays Game 1 starter Tyler Glasnow — and Rays pitchers to come — to no end.
On an Astros team full of legitimate twentysomething superstars (Alex Bregman, George Springer, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa), Yordan Alvarez is the batter who seems to almost come out of a myth. One of his home runs went so deep, landing in the third deck of Minute Maid, that the Astros turned it into a tourist attraction, wrapping the seat it hit in orange vinyl.
The Rays have Tropicana Field, where balls bounce off roofs, catwalks and speakers. The Astros have the orange seat in the upper upper deck where only Yordan goes.
That would be another advantage Astros. Rays outfielder Tommy Pham cracked that “Bob Gibson is retired” when the Tampa Bay Times asked him about the Astros vaunted pitching staff on series’ eve. But even if Justin Verlander apparently does not remind Pham of Gibson, it turns out the Astros have a slugger with home run tales that rival some of Babe Ruth’s.
When your home runs come with better origin stories than most Star Wars movies, you’re doing something right.
Still, this is Yordan Alvarez’s first taste of the postseason. He should be nervous, right? Right?
Turns out, having a clubhouse of relatable young players who’ve starred under October’s bright glare has a way of negating that.
“I talked to a lot of different players,” Alvarez says of his pre-playoffs schooling. “With Yuli (Gurriel). With (Aledmy) Diaz. With Altuve. They said that it’s the same baseball. It’s just a lot more fans and more cameras.”
While the type of person who obsesses over the taxes they could have to pay if they win the lottery may be anxious about Alvarez’s 0 for 11 end to the regular season, the more important point may what Alvarez did accomplish in that last trip to Anaheim.
He picked the brain of Albert Pujols.
“We talked about the postseason as well and how to handle that,” Alvarez says.
As Astros fans know better than anyone, Pujols handled the playoffs awfully well. Are you really going to bet against Alvarez being able to clear the train tracks at Minute Maid in an October moment of his own?
No Spring Power
One of the most telling stretches of Yordan Alvarez’s young Astros career may have come back in spring training. At a time when most young sluggers would have been desperately trying to show off their power to push to make the Major League roster, Alvarez concentrated on fine tuning other things. The powerfully built 6-foot-5, 242-pound Alvarez did not hit a single home run in spring.
Not one home run. And Yordan Alvarez didn’t stress at all.
“Everybody jokes about that,” Alvarez says of his age. “Even our teammates joke about that a lot. But I checked with my mom and she says that I am who I am. And I’m my age. So I’m not too worried about that.”
“It’s spring training,” he says. “It’s just warming up. I figured if they weren’t going out there, they’d have to go out during the regular season. And they did.”
Did they ever. Alvarez hit 23 homes in 56 games in Triple A to all but force his way into the Big Leagues. Then, he hit 27 in 87 games with the Astros. That’s just a neat 50 combined.
As Alvarez pulls on a simple black hooded sweatshirt, to go with his gray shorts, and answers questions with the aid of an interpreter at his locker, it turns out he looks every bit the 22-year-old, too. So much for that.
Haters gonna be wrong when the swing is this right.