Can Orioles' Dariel Alvarez springboard Caribbean Series success into a strong spring training?
Feb 08, 2016 | 8:23 AM
Orioles outfield prospect Dariel Alvarez will enter spring training this month coming off a strong showing in the just-completed Caribbean Series.
The 27-year-old Cuban was a late-season signing by Aragua of the Venezuelan winter league, and shined on the international stage as his club advanced to the championship game of the Caribbean Series, which features winter league winners from Venezuela, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Puerto Rico.
In six games in the Caribbean Series, Alvarez was 11-for-24, hitting .458/.480/.583 with five RBIs. He hit safely in five of the six games and recorded multiple hits in four contests as his Venezuelan team lost to Mexico in the championship game on Sunday 5-4 on a walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth inning.
It will be interesting to see how far Alvarez's performance goes with the Orioles. It's a small sample size, but Orioles manager Buck Showalter often talks about how there are few atmospheres in baseball that rival that of the Caribbean Series, and Alvarez played well under that bright spotlight.
Barring a significant addition in the outfield, Alvarez will enter his second big league spring training this month competing for a roster spot. While I've seen some places project Alvarez as the team's starting right fielder, at this point, it's likely that he'd have to beat out Nolan Reimold for the starting right fielder job.
Alvarez still has minor league options, Reimold is out of options and the team will take a long look at Rule 5 pick Joey Rickard as a right-handed hitting outfielder off the bench, so Alvarez could open the season back in Triple-A. The Orioles could still acquire a left-handed-hitting outfielder to form a platoon in right field.
Alvarez, who was signed to a $800,000 signing bonus in 2013 after he left Cuba, hit .275/.305/.424 with 16 homers and 72 RBIs last year in his first full season at Triple-A Norfolk. He showed flashes of potential last spring, but was also raw in center field. His big league future is likely in right field.
He earned a big-league call-up in late August and earned playing time right away, but that opportunity waned as the season winded down. He received just three starts over the final three weeks of the season and finished the season 1-for-9 over his last four games.
Alvarez is turned 27 in November – he played six years in Cuba before leaving – so he's getting up there in terms of age. But he still must prove to the Orioles that he can hold his own as a major leaguer. He undoubtedly has tools. He might be the best outfield arm among any player in the Orioles system, and that includes the major league club. But this spring will be about earning the trust of the Orioles' staff.