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St. Louis Cardinals Top Prospects: #14

Every other day over the next two months, John Nagel and Kyle Reis will announce a new prospect on The Redbird Daily’s Top 30 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect List. For each prospect, John and Kyle will reveal where that prospect landed on their personal lists and also few thoughts on the prospect. We hope you enjoy!

Prospect #14 Eli Alvarez – International Signee, 2011

2016 Stats: Peoria – 323/404/879, 36 Doubles, 6 Triples, 6 HR, 59 RBI, 36 Stolen Bases, 53 Walks, 96 Strike Outs

Kyle Reis (Prospect #17 On Personal List)

As I mentioned HERE, I put together 4 versions of my top 30 list, each time thinking that it was the final version. Every time I walked away from the list I’d be hit with a revelation, thought, or doubt and I’d feel the obligation to start over. I bring this up now because Eliezer Alvarez is one of the major reasons this happened.

The highest I ranked Alvarez during this process was 10th, during my second try at the list. I settled on ranking Eli 17th, which ended up being the lowest that I ranked him during this process. The reason for the fall had just as much to do with the logjam of high-quality yet comparable talent between 7-24 on my personal list as it does with his performance.

Make no mistake, his bat will absolutely play. So will his speed. John will give you more details in a minute, but it’s a pivotal year for Alvarez, as he will be playing against comparable talent for the first time since he found his stroke. He’s played against players about his age, but not necessarily his skill level.

His defense and effort level is where I have my questions. Alvarez isn’t an easy player to gauge in the field. He’s actually kind of a nightmare. Baseball America rated him as the best defensive 2B in The Midwest League following the 2016 season. Some scouts say his range flashes as a plus tool. It’s great to hear all of that. But the negatives have me really apprehensive.

Now a-days, it’s become standard practice to discount errors as a tool to measure defensive effectiveness. And, honestly, it’s hard to disagree with that thinking. But I’ll say this: 27 errors in 113 games at second is a number worth being alarmed about. I’ve also heard that his footwork is a mess and he has a tendency of backing up on ground balls hit in his immediate area.

I’d be less worried if there weren’t underground rumblings about Alvarez’ effort level. It was rumored that former  Peoria coach Joe Kruzel benched Eli more than once last season because of his lack of hustle. You’re doomed if you need to get better at a curtain aspect of the game but don’t have what Doug Vaughn would called “The HWHant(Want) To”. It’s only Spring Training, but his error in the 9th on Monday led directly to the Twins tying the game up. Eli is only a 22 year old kid so he gets the benefit of the doubt. I’ll be watching his defense closely, though.

I see a lot of Jason Kipnis when I watch Eli Alvarez play, although I don’t think Alvarez will ever hit for as much power as Kipnis. Here’s a profile that’ll hit home for Cardinals fans: right now, Eli is Fernando Vina offensively with the upside of Tony Womack defensively. However, you should definitely be prepared for Kolten Wong at his worst with Alvarez. That’s his Delta

John Nagel (Prospect #11 On Personal List)

For a prospect inside the top 15, Kyle and I have a pretty significant variance in our ranking of Eli Alvarez. I have him at #11 on my list, which shows how much I like this kid. Kyle mentioned the Jason Kipnis comp, and that is exactly what I think as well.

Alvarez started 2016 in the shadows of Magneuris Sierra and Edmundo Sosa on the Peoria Chiefs, but he would go on to out-play both of them. He finished the season with an incredible 159 wRC+ and had an OBP slightly over .400, but he is not just an “on base guy”. His ISO (isolated power) was at .152, which is slightly above average, but well above average for a second baseman.

At 22 1/2 years old, Alvarez is pretty much on age level, which is not quite ideal for a top prospect. This means we will want to see this type of performance at the higher levels in 2017. This also means that Alvarez’s stint with High-A Palm Beach may be pretty short in 2017, for multiple reasons.

If Alvarez’s defense is as good as Kyle mentioned above, he has the potential to be an above average second baseman and could bring stability to a position that has been in turmoil for a few years. Hopefully the Cardinals instructors can work with him on his footwork and his attitude, which is not uncommon for a young player.

Alvarez took a giant step forward in 2016 and now is well-known amongst Cardinals fans. 2017 should be a transition year for the young second baseman. I don’t think too far-fetched to believe that Alvarez could finish the season with Double-A Springfield and could be fighting for a MLB roster spot next year. The second base play of Kolten Wong will likely determine the path of Alvarez.

It will be interesting to see how it all plays out. Back to you Steve.

How we rank prospects: Click Here
Best of The Rest: Click Here
#30 Prospect: Daniel Poncedeleon
#29 Prospect: Jonathan Machado
#28 Prospect: Jeremy Martinez
#27 Prospect: John Gant
#26 Prospect: Alvaro Seijas
#25 Prospect: Nick Plummer
#24 Prospect: Jordan Hicks
#23 Prospect: Zac Gallen
#22 Prospect: Bryce Denton
#21 Prospect: Johan Oviedo
#20 Propsect: Randy Arozarena
#19 Prospect: Connor Jones
#18 Prospect: Dylan Carlson
#17 Prospect: Ronnie Williams
#16 Prospect: Paul DeJong
#15 Prospect: Ryan Helsley
#14 Prospect: Eli Alvarez
#13 Prospect: 3/9
#12 Prospect: 3/11
#11 Prospect: 3/13
#10 Prospect: 3/15
#9 Prospect: 3/17
#8 Prospect: 3/19
#7 Prospect: 3/21
#6 Prospect: 3/23
#5 Prospect: 3/25
#4 Prospect: 3/27
#3 Prospect: 3/29
#2 Prospect: 3/31
#1 Prospect: 4/2



Kyle Reis
Kyle is a South City St Louis born and raised. He is 30 years old and grew up at old Busch Stadium. His favorite Cardinals player of all time is Ray Lankford. Kyle is an overly simple person who loves countable baseball statistics, following minor league baseball, and friendly discourse. He tends to not take people seriously that refer for the team that they root for as "we" instead of "them".
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