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1 minute ago, TonyTexas said:

Can you copy that and put it in a spoiler for us non-athletic types?

Spoiler

 

Astros season preview: Why Yordan Alvarez and the health of his knees are the keys for Houston in 2021

GettyImages-1231814047-1024x683.jpg
By Jake Kaplan 3h agosave-icon.png

Six-foot-5 and rarely revealing any emotion, Yordan Alvarez is an imposing figure in the batter’s box. His prodigious power and routinely high exit velocities don’t hurt that perception, either. Between the majors and Triple A in 2019, he hit 50 home runs in only 143 games.

It feels like every hit off the left-handed-hitting Alvarez’s bat is an absolute rocket. But what separates him as a hitter is he’s not the boom-or-bust slugger his profile suggests. He’s patient and disciplined in his approach. His advanced pitch recognition and knowledge of the strike zone allow him to take borderline pitches and wait for a pitch he can drive. He uses the entire field; many of his blasts go out to the left of center.

“He has an aura about him. He had one since the day he stepped foot in the big leagues,” Alex Bregman said. “I’ll never forget him looking for a change-up in his second at-bat and hitting one oppo off the gas tank in left-center (at Minute Maid Park). It was just amazing to witness.”

The young Astros designated hitter awed his teammates often in the final four months of the 2019 season, after which he was the unanimous American League Rookie of the Year Award winner despite being held down in Triple A until June 9. At only 22, he was one of the five most productive hitters in MLB during the time he was in the big leagues.

2019 OPS leaders from June 9-Sept. 29
PLAYER OPS
1.103
1.090
1.067
1.067
1.067

But then 2020 happened, and Alvarez’s sophomore campaign quickly became a lost one. First, he tested positive for COVID-19, which put him in quarantine for most of July and delayed his season debut by about three weeks. Then, only two games into his season, the knee issues that plagued him when he was in the minors and during his rookie season resurfaced. Surgery ended his season after a measly nine plate appearances.

“Mentally, it was really tough,” he said through an interpreter. “I had a lot of time where I wasn’t physically able to do anything because I had to follow protocol. I think when I was finally ready to get back and start training again, I tried to rush things a little bit too much. Maybe that was part of the reason why I had some difficulties with my knees, just not being ready to train and then trying to get after it as quick as I could to be back with the team.”

Now, after a shortened season during which their offense underperformed and an offseason in which they lost George Springer, the Astros are counting on Alvarez to continue on his superstar trajectory. They’re hoping that the reintroduction of his bat into their lineup will offset the loss of Springer, long the energy source at the top of their order.

It’s conceivable that he will. Even last season, he homered in the first of his two games. But a bet on Alvarez is a bet on his availability, and he’s awfully young to have health questions trailing him to this extent.

In August, Alvarez had arthroscopic surgery on both of his knees. In his right knee, a surgeon repaired what the Astros described as a slight tear of the patellar tendon. In his left knee, he had a routine cleanup. At the time, the team said he should be ready to play before spring training. But throughout spring training, the Astros treated Alvarez with kid gloves.

Alvarez didn’t make his Grapefruit League debut until March 14. He played in 10 games and didn’t play any left field, which set the bar extremely low for the volume of defense he will play this season. Even on the back fields, he progressed to do defensive work in left field only within the final two weeks of camp.

“I don’t want to take any chance of him coming up lame,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said last week. “We’ll just have to do that once we get to Houston, and we’ll see how it goes. We feel very fortunate to have him back DHing, and him not in any kind of pain. I don’t see him limping. He’s in a good frame of my mind.”

Given the situation with his knees, it’s sensible that the Astros would want to play it safe with Alvarez. He’s a bad defender anyway — in the 2019 World Series, then-manager A.J. Hinch started him in left field in only one of the three NL-style games at Nationals Park — and his value is tied exclusively to his bat.

But at the same time, the Astros would prefer Alvarez be able to play even a little defense to make for a more versatile and flexible roster, now and in the future. Joe Espada, their bench coach and infield instructor, had said early in spring training that he hoped to expose Alvarez to first base in workouts. Alvarez played some first base in the minors, but the Astros believed then he was better suited to play left field and had him spend more time there. It remains to be seen if that experiment will amount to anything of consequence.

Forcing him into the field at either position isn’t a priority for the Astros, which will make for an interesting challenge for manager Baker throughout the season. Last season, Baker had the DH spot to fall back on to keep Michael Brantley’s bat in the lineup when a quad injury hindered Brantley’s availability in the field. In an ideal situation, the Astros would be able to give the soon-to-be-34-year-old Brantley occasional DH days this season without losing Alvarez’s bat. In this situation, they might not be able to.

“I’m going to have to give (Brantley) some days off every now and then, and I’m going to have to give Alvarez some days off every now and then,” Baker said. “Some guys really aren’t that crazy about DHing, and Michael’s one of them. Even though he does it well, he’d rather play the field. So as long as he’s healthy, (he can play left field). And if I do give him a day off, I’ve got a heck of a pinch hitter on the bench, and if I give Alvarez a day off then I’ve got another heck of a pinch hitter off the bench.

“Yeah, it’s going to be challenging. But we’ll see on a daily basis. We have some people upstairs who have graphs and all kinds of things that tell how much workload or how much a guy has run or if a guy is in the green, yellow or red to possibly sustain an injury. I trust our fitness people and our conditioning people. The ultimate decision is mine, but it’s nice to know when there are caution flags and red flags. You’re not going to be able to stop all of it, but we’ll just do what we can.”

The positional questions about Alvarez are nothing new. They’re actually a major reason he was available for the Astros to acquire in the first place. The Cuban was far from the most famous prospect in the 2015-16 international signing class, which was headlined by Vladimir Guerrero Jr. He hadn’t hit for power in the 70 or so games he played in Cuba’s Serie Nacional before he defected, though that he was even playing as a 16- and 17-year old was impressive. Many teams, including the Astros, could have signed him as a free agent. The Dodgers, who had blown through their bonus pool and were already facing penalties for the next two international signing periods, decided to take a shot on him for a $2 million bonus on the final day of the period, not knowing where he would play defensively.

Charlie Gonzalez, the Astros scout who leads the charge on all their Cuban signings, had become enamored with Alvarez during the evaluation process. But he couldn’t persuade then-general manager Jeff Luhnow to sign him. Luhnow drew on Gonzalez’s advocacy six weeks later, when the Dodgers were willing to part with Alvarez in a trade deadline deal for reliever Josh Fields. (Incredibly, this was the same summer the White Sox traded another undervalued 2015-16 international signee, Fernando Tatís Jr., to the Padres for James Shields.) Alvarez, who was at the Dodgers’ facility in the Dominican Republic at the time, had yet to be even cleared to play in an official game.

Had Alvarez remained with the Dodgers, defense would’ve had to have been a greater priority while he was in the minors. Even with the Astros, he played more defense in the minors than one might expect given how little of it he plays now. In 2018, which he split between Double A and Triple A, he played 65 games in left field and another five at first base.

During his time in Triple A early in 2019, Alvarez played 27 games in left field, nine games at first base and even two games in right field. But after his promotion to the majors, he appeared in left field in five games in June but only two in July, two in August and one in September. The knee issues were why. A couple of foul balls he hit off his knees that summer didn’t help. The first six innings of Game 5 of the World Series at Nationals Park signified the only defense Alvarez played during the 2019 playoffs. He was the DH for both of the 2020 games he played before his surgery. Whenever he’s asked about the possibility of Alvarez playing the field, Baker downplays expectations.

In this era of versatility, a player needs to hit a ton to be able to pull off being a DH only. Alvarez’s rookie season suggests he’s the rare player who can do it. In 2019, the last full-length major-league season, Nelson Cruz (4.4), Alvarez (3.7) and Shohei Ohtani (2.5) were the only players who started 80 percent or more of their games at DH and had a positive bWAR.

Alvarez was so productive in 2019 that 54 percent of his hits went for extra bases (53 of 98). The first of his 27 homers in the majors marked a signature moment of that summer. Dylan Bundy, then with the Orioles, tried to get him out in front of a 1-and-0 change-up in the second plate appearance of his major-league debut. But Alvarez stayed back on the pitch and drove it out to the opposite field, a moment teammates will recall when they reflect on his incredible rookie campaign.

There was also the time Alvarez got an inside fastball about six inches off the plate from left-hander J.A. Happ and launched it to the upper deck in right field at Yankee Stadium. Before the end of the regular season, he added a three-homer performance and became the first Astro to hit a ball into the third deck at Minute Maid Park. Seat 18 in Row 1 of Section 337 is now orange to commemorate the homer’s landing place.

Sustaining his performance over a full major-league season (if that’s possible) will be the next challenge for Alvarez, who’s on the Opening Day roster for the first time. His spring was relatively quiet, but so was his first major-league camp in 2019. For the Astros, no news was good news.

“I’m super motivated. I think just to be super healthy is what motivates me more than anything,” Alvarez said. “I don’t think I’m worried too much about what’s going to happen during the season. It’s just a matter of taking care of what I can take care of and handling the business each day.”

TLDR version: Alvarez needs to stay healthy.

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25 minutes ago, Gourmand said:
  Reveal hidden contents

 

Astros season preview: Why Yordan Alvarez and the health of his knees are the keys for Houston in 2021

GettyImages-1231814047-1024x683.jpg
By Jake Kaplan 3h agosave-icon.png

Six-foot-5 and rarely revealing any emotion, Yordan Alvarez is an imposing figure in the batter’s box. His prodigious power and routinely high exit velocities don’t hurt that perception, either. Between the majors and Triple A in 2019, he hit 50 home runs in only 143 games.

It feels like every hit off the left-handed-hitting Alvarez’s bat is an absolute rocket. But what separates him as a hitter is he’s not the boom-or-bust slugger his profile suggests. He’s patient and disciplined in his approach. His advanced pitch recognition and knowledge of the strike zone allow him to take borderline pitches and wait for a pitch he can drive. He uses the entire field; many of his blasts go out to the left of center.

“He has an aura about him. He had one since the day he stepped foot in the big leagues,” Alex Bregman said. “I’ll never forget him looking for a change-up in his second at-bat and hitting one oppo off the gas tank in left-center (at Minute Maid Park). It was just amazing to witness.”

The young Astros designated hitter awed his teammates often in the final four months of the 2019 season, after which he was the unanimous American League Rookie of the Year Award winner despite being held down in Triple A until June 9. At only 22, he was one of the five most productive hitters in MLB during the time he was in the big leagues.

2019 OPS leaders from June 9-Sept. 29
PLAYER OPS
1.103
1.090
1.067
1.067
1.067

But then 2020 happened, and Alvarez’s sophomore campaign quickly became a lost one. First, he tested positive for COVID-19, which put him in quarantine for most of July and delayed his season debut by about three weeks. Then, only two games into his season, the knee issues that plagued him when he was in the minors and during his rookie season resurfaced. Surgery ended his season after a measly nine plate appearances.

“Mentally, it was really tough,” he said through an interpreter. “I had a lot of time where I wasn’t physically able to do anything because I had to follow protocol. I think when I was finally ready to get back and start training again, I tried to rush things a little bit too much. Maybe that was part of the reason why I had some difficulties with my knees, just not being ready to train and then trying to get after it as quick as I could to be back with the team.”

Now, after a shortened season during which their offense underperformed and an offseason in which they lost George Springer, the Astros are counting on Alvarez to continue on his superstar trajectory. They’re hoping that the reintroduction of his bat into their lineup will offset the loss of Springer, long the energy source at the top of their order.

It’s conceivable that he will. Even last season, he homered in the first of his two games. But a bet on Alvarez is a bet on his availability, and he’s awfully young to have health questions trailing him to this extent.

In August, Alvarez had arthroscopic surgery on both of his knees. In his right knee, a surgeon repaired what the Astros described as a slight tear of the patellar tendon. In his left knee, he had a routine cleanup. At the time, the team said he should be ready to play before spring training. But throughout spring training, the Astros treated Alvarez with kid gloves.

Alvarez didn’t make his Grapefruit League debut until March 14. He played in 10 games and didn’t play any left field, which set the bar extremely low for the volume of defense he will play this season. Even on the back fields, he progressed to do defensive work in left field only within the final two weeks of camp.

“I don’t want to take any chance of him coming up lame,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said last week. “We’ll just have to do that once we get to Houston, and we’ll see how it goes. We feel very fortunate to have him back DHing, and him not in any kind of pain. I don’t see him limping. He’s in a good frame of my mind.”

Given the situation with his knees, it’s sensible that the Astros would want to play it safe with Alvarez. He’s a bad defender anyway — in the 2019 World Series, then-manager A.J. Hinch started him in left field in only one of the three NL-style games at Nationals Park — and his value is tied exclusively to his bat.

But at the same time, the Astros would prefer Alvarez be able to play even a little defense to make for a more versatile and flexible roster, now and in the future. Joe Espada, their bench coach and infield instructor, had said early in spring training that he hoped to expose Alvarez to first base in workouts. Alvarez played some first base in the minors, but the Astros believed then he was better suited to play left field and had him spend more time there. It remains to be seen if that experiment will amount to anything of consequence.

Forcing him into the field at either position isn’t a priority for the Astros, which will make for an interesting challenge for manager Baker throughout the season. Last season, Baker had the DH spot to fall back on to keep Michael Brantley’s bat in the lineup when a quad injury hindered Brantley’s availability in the field. In an ideal situation, the Astros would be able to give the soon-to-be-34-year-old Brantley occasional DH days this season without losing Alvarez’s bat. In this situation, they might not be able to.

“I’m going to have to give (Brantley) some days off every now and then, and I’m going to have to give Alvarez some days off every now and then,” Baker said. “Some guys really aren’t that crazy about DHing, and Michael’s one of them. Even though he does it well, he’d rather play the field. So as long as he’s healthy, (he can play left field). And if I do give him a day off, I’ve got a heck of a pinch hitter on the bench, and if I give Alvarez a day off then I’ve got another heck of a pinch hitter off the bench.

“Yeah, it’s going to be challenging. But we’ll see on a daily basis. We have some people upstairs who have graphs and all kinds of things that tell how much workload or how much a guy has run or if a guy is in the green, yellow or red to possibly sustain an injury. I trust our fitness people and our conditioning people. The ultimate decision is mine, but it’s nice to know when there are caution flags and red flags. You’re not going to be able to stop all of it, but we’ll just do what we can.”

The positional questions about Alvarez are nothing new. They’re actually a major reason he was available for the Astros to acquire in the first place. The Cuban was far from the most famous prospect in the 2015-16 international signing class, which was headlined by Vladimir Guerrero Jr. He hadn’t hit for power in the 70 or so games he played in Cuba’s Serie Nacional before he defected, though that he was even playing as a 16- and 17-year old was impressive. Many teams, including the Astros, could have signed him as a free agent. The Dodgers, who had blown through their bonus pool and were already facing penalties for the next two international signing periods, decided to take a shot on him for a $2 million bonus on the final day of the period, not knowing where he would play defensively.

Charlie Gonzalez, the Astros scout who leads the charge on all their Cuban signings, had become enamored with Alvarez during the evaluation process. But he couldn’t persuade then-general manager Jeff Luhnow to sign him. Luhnow drew on Gonzalez’s advocacy six weeks later, when the Dodgers were willing to part with Alvarez in a trade deadline deal for reliever Josh Fields. (Incredibly, this was the same summer the White Sox traded another undervalued 2015-16 international signee, Fernando Tatís Jr., to the Padres for James Shields.) Alvarez, who was at the Dodgers’ facility in the Dominican Republic at the time, had yet to be even cleared to play in an official game.

Had Alvarez remained with the Dodgers, defense would’ve had to have been a greater priority while he was in the minors. Even with the Astros, he played more defense in the minors than one might expect given how little of it he plays now. In 2018, which he split between Double A and Triple A, he played 65 games in left field and another five at first base.

During his time in Triple A early in 2019, Alvarez played 27 games in left field, nine games at first base and even two games in right field. But after his promotion to the majors, he appeared in left field in five games in June but only two in July, two in August and one in September. The knee issues were why. A couple of foul balls he hit off his knees that summer didn’t help. The first six innings of Game 5 of the World Series at Nationals Park signified the only defense Alvarez played during the 2019 playoffs. He was the DH for both of the 2020 games he played before his surgery. Whenever he’s asked about the possibility of Alvarez playing the field, Baker downplays expectations.

In this era of versatility, a player needs to hit a ton to be able to pull off being a DH only. Alvarez’s rookie season suggests he’s the rare player who can do it. In 2019, the last full-length major-league season, Nelson Cruz (4.4), Alvarez (3.7) and Shohei Ohtani (2.5) were the only players who started 80 percent or more of their games at DH and had a positive bWAR.

Alvarez was so productive in 2019 that 54 percent of his hits went for extra bases (53 of 98). The first of his 27 homers in the majors marked a signature moment of that summer. Dylan Bundy, then with the Orioles, tried to get him out in front of a 1-and-0 change-up in the second plate appearance of his major-league debut. But Alvarez stayed back on the pitch and drove it out to the opposite field, a moment teammates will recall when they reflect on his incredible rookie campaign.

There was also the time Alvarez got an inside fastball about six inches off the plate from left-hander J.A. Happ and launched it to the upper deck in right field at Yankee Stadium. Before the end of the regular season, he added a three-homer performance and became the first Astro to hit a ball into the third deck at Minute Maid Park. Seat 18 in Row 1 of Section 337 is now orange to commemorate the homer’s landing place.

Sustaining his performance over a full major-league season (if that’s possible) will be the next challenge for Alvarez, who’s on the Opening Day roster for the first time. His spring was relatively quiet, but so was his first major-league camp in 2019. For the Astros, no news was good news.

“I’m super motivated. I think just to be super healthy is what motivates me more than anything,” Alvarez said. “I don’t think I’m worried too much about what’s going to happen during the season. It’s just a matter of taking care of what I can take care of and handling the business each day.”

TLDR version: Alvarez needs to stay healthy.

Yeah, it's not really a season preview, just a Yordan article.

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Posted (edited)

93-67

5th straight ALCS appearance.

magic 8 ball only goes out to the start of the ALCS so not yet sure if we’re advancing to and/or winning the World Series...

should come in to focus on/around July 31

 

edit: realized that only adds up to 160 games. Started to correct to 162, but that’s probably actually going to be right.

Edited by UTexasFight
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Posted (edited)
38 minutes ago, UTexasFight said:

93-67

5th straight ALCS appearance.

magic 8 ball only goes out to the start of the ALCS so not yet sure if we’re advancing to and/or winning the World Series...

should come in to focus on/around July 31

 

edit: realized that only adds up to 160 games. Started to correct to 162, but that’s probably actually going to be right.

146-3 because we're gonna rest some guys and several teams are gonna fake Covid when we're scheduled.

Edited by TexArcher
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Posted (edited)
41 minutes ago, DaysOff said:

87-75

Beat out A's for division by a game

First round exit; team is slowly dismantled

Depression sets in

 

Yeah, well, ya know, that's just like, your opinion, man.

Edited by TexArcher
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101-61. 

We gonna be really good in the regular season as we have 7 or 8 or 9 arms in the organization that can be a 2-4 starter, and enough bullpen to definitely be servicable.  We will be a top 3 run scored and top 7 runs allowed team.  We will lose in the round where it's exposed that we don't have enough top end stating pitching and lack that hammer in the bullpen to compete with some of the other teams in top end talent- but if we don't have to face the Yanks or Rays or Dodgers or Padres we might be able to avoid that kind of thing.  This team is built to win in 162 games.  If we are going to win in the sprint as opposed to marathon we will need some real clutch performances from Correa or Altuve or Bregman.  

I'd put our organization from 4-18 up against anyone's. I'm worried about no cy young type and no regular that you say- yeah that guys going to put up MVP numbers for sure. Correa, Altuve, Yordan, Bregman- they've all got some blemishes to them health wise or coming off bad seasons or looking for stuff. I don't know that I trust our best against another teams best- but I know I like our 4th starter, 3rd best high leverage reliever or 6th best hitter up against whoever we are playing almost any day.   

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meh.  

Just cause he said he wanted to be signed by start of season doesn't mean he won't be signed.   It is all about leverage and positioning and throwing your dick around.  

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2 hours ago, Wulaw Horn said:

101-61. 

We gonna be really good in the regular season as we have 7 or 8 or 9 arms in the organization that can be a 2-4 starter, and enough bullpen to definitely be servicable.  We will be a top 3 run scored and top 7 runs allowed team.  We will lose in the round where it's exposed that we don't have enough top end stating pitching and lack that hammer in the bullpen to compete with some of the other teams in top end talent- but if we don't have to face the Yanks or Rays or Dodgers or Padres we might be able to avoid that kind of thing.  This team is built to win in 162 games.  If we are going to win in the sprint as opposed to marathon we will need some real clutch performances from Correa or Altuve or Bregman.  

I'd put our organization from 4-18 up against anyone's. I'm worried about no cy young type and no regular that you say- yeah that guys going to put up MVP numbers for sure. Correa, Altuve, Yordan, Bregman- they've all got some blemishes to them health wise or coming off bad seasons or looking for stuff. I don't know that I trust our best against another teams best- but I know I like our 4th starter, 3rd best high leverage reliever or 6th best hitter up against whoever we are playing almost any day.   

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