The future closer for the Baltimore Orioles may be just a four hour drive away in 2020.
Venezuelan native Cristian Alvarado joined the Baltimore Orioles organization as an international free-agent in August of 2011. The team re-signed the 25-year-old right-hander to a minor league contract back in November, as reported by MASNSports.com’s Roch Kubatko. His resigning affirms the organization’s confidence in him and could possibly solidify his path to the major leagues.
Utilized primarily as a starting pitcher over his first seven seasons in the organization, Alvarado produced a 44-43 record over 121 starts (132 appearances) with a 3.80 ERA. In 2019, he moved to the bullpen for the Bowie Baysox (AA) and thrived as their closer.
Alvarado made 40 appearances for the Baysox and over a span of 74.1 innings pitched, produced a 3-3 record while converting 13 saves over 15 save opportunities and was credited with two holds. He finished the season with a 2.66 ERA, 70 strikeouts, 18 walks, and a 0.93 WHIP. Alvarado limited Eastern League batters to a .189 batting average.
Alvarado’s 13 saves led the Baysox bullpen and were good enough for a tie with Frederick’s (A+) Diogenes Almengo for second throughout the entire organization; Tim Naughton paced the Orioles minor league system with 20 saves. Alvarado’s 70 strikeouts and 74.1 innings pitched both led all Bowie relievers, as well.
Baysox broadcaster Adam Pohl told me during the season that Alvarado was an “under the radar prospect” who was “throwing 95-96 mph out of the bullpen”. He was vital to the Baysox success in 2019 as he accounted for 36% of the entire bullpen’s saves (13 out of 36). Alvarado finished 24 of Bowie’s games as well.
Alvarado produced a 38.1% ground-ball rate, but typically produces a number closer to 42-43% which should help him no matter what level he finds himself pitching. He also stranded baserunners at a rate if 71.9% which shows he has the ability to limit damage, a necessary quality in a closer.
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Alvarado should take his 2019 8.48 strikeouts/9 IPand 3.89 strikeout to walk ratio to Norfolk (AAA) in 2020 where his increase in velocity as a reliever should play well. He is a pitcher who seems to have benefited from the new use of analytics in the Baltimore Orioles system.
In the second year of the rebuild under General Manager Mike Elias, the Orioles are not projected to win many games again in 2020. That being said, there may not be a need for a true closer at the major league level this season. Should Alvarado equal or even out-perform his 2019 numbers during the upcoming season, he may very well see time in Oriole Park at Camden Yards and could be the closer of the future. His progress as a reliever should be watched and may very well put him on the radar.
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