Oakland Athletics’ Prospect Profile: Relief Pitcher R.J. Alvarez

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The Oakland Athletics prospect pool is full of talent, so it was not surprising that they called up a few of their more well known minor leaguers while the team was struggling this season. One of those prospects that was called up was relief pitcher R.J. Alvarez. This is Alvarez’s third organization in the past two years, but it seems as though he could find a permanent place on Oakland’s roster in the future.

Alvarez was drafted in the third round in 2012 by the Los Angeles Angels. While with the Angels, Alvarez quickly jumped to Double-A by 2014. He performed extremely well while with the Angels’ Double-A team that year, posting a 0.33 ERA with 38 strikeouts over 27 innings pitched. Alvarez did so well, he turned himself into a valuable trading piece. During the July trade deadline in 2014, the Angels traded Alvarez to the San Diego Padres.

Alvarez made his MLB debut with the Padres in September of 2014. He pitched eight successful innings, allowing just three hits and one run, and earning a 1.13 ERA. However, that offseason, he was traded to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for Derek Norris.

Even though Alvarez showed promise while with the Angels and Padres, his did not fare so well in the Athletics organization. The A’s No. 24 prospect did ok with Triple-A Nashville for he did not allow a single home run the entire season. Additionally, righted handed batters had an especially hard time reading his pitches. However, when he was called up to Oakland this season, his performance was a little disastrous. Alvarez pitched a total of 20 innings in the big leagues where he allowed 22 earned runs and seven homers leaving him with a 9.90 ERA.

Despite his poor debut with the A’s, Alvarez does have solid pitching technique and power, which was seen when he was in pitching in the Minors. He can throw a fastball, slider and a change up. Perhaps this was just an off-year for Alvarez. If he is able to get regain his confidence this offseason, Alvarez has the pitching talent to be a great Major League reliever.

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For someone like Alvarez, improving and tweaking his skills should not be a problem. Back in 2013, Alvarez did have a curveball however he had a hard time landing it in the strike zone. Thus, he replaced it with the slider. This just goes to show that Alvarez is willing to make changes to get better. If he works hard this offseason and during spring training, Alvarez could end up as a righty specialist for the A’s in 2016.

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