There is nothing more intimidating than seeing Yordan Alvarez come up to the plate. The 6’5″, 225 lbs slugger is a frightening presence in the left-handed batter’s box, both for the pitcher and the ball itself. He does damage to baseballs that few others are capable of in Major League Baseball and makes it look effortless.
In addition to the visual appeal of watching Alvarez hit, the 24-year-old is building on his impressive 2021 with MVP-type numbers so far in 2022.
While his contributions in R, RBI, and HR are elite, Alvarez also has a solid batting average for today’s environment. His .253 figure is 15 points higher than league average, so there isn’t a hole in his game from a pure fantasy perspective.
He’s already a top bat, but this is just the beginning. Between bad luck on balls in play and an improved approach, Alvarez has another level of play that we haven’t seen yet. He can make the jump to MVP conversation as he’s doing all the right things; it’s just a matter of time before it all clicks into place.
The Curse of BABIP
First things first, Alvarez has a .243 BABIP, an incredibly low number given how frequently he makes hard contact. Going into the 2022 season, there were concerns about his high BABIP in his first three MLB seasons. A .335 BABIP is a high, yet potentially sustainable, figure that would rank in the top-30 of baseball each year. Alvarez maintaining a high BABIP and continuing to hit was not out of the realm of possibilities at all, rather it was the likely outcome as he was displaying strong batted ball stats just 233 games into his Major League career. Since 2010, here is the BABIP landscape for players with a 130 wRC+ or greater, min 1000 PA (37 players qualify):
Alvarez’s career BABIP is lower because of this year’s figure, but his .243 BABIP this season is nowhere close to the worst 130 wRC+ hitter (José Bautista) on the list. He’s going to get some batted ball luck over the remaining months of 2022.
Even though his BABIP has taken a 90-point step back (.335 to .243), Alvarez is producing more than he was when he had a high BABIP. This year, he has a 157 wRC+, compared to the 152 wRC+ in his first three seasons. That’s terrifying.
If Alvarez starts getting lucky on his balls in play, or at least he has enough luck to inch back closer to his career BABIP, he might be the best hitter in baseball this year.
Bad Luck Continued
A good way to gauge which hitters should be performing the best is to sort by xwOBA. That is, who has the highest expected output by batted ball data. Number 2 on that list is Alvarez with an absurd .460 xwOBA, only trailing Aaron Judge’s .467 xwOBA. Compare that to their actual wOBA, which is the substantiated value for production, and there’s a stark contrast. Judge has a .442 wOBA while Alvarez has a .381 wOBA.
Looking at the biggest differences between wOBA and xwOBA among the top 30 hitters (sorted by xwOBA), Alvarez stands alone at the top of the list.
Alvarez’s peripherals also indicate that he’s more likely to get close to his xwOBA than others on this list. His Brl/PA% is the second-best on this leaderboard and fifth-best in baseball, and his HardHit% is tops both this list and all of baseball. Alvarez is making hard contact more than anyone else in the league and is the most unlucky good hitter. His current .381 wOBA puts him in All-Star territory, but any value close to his .460 xwOBA puts Alvarez in the MVP conversation.
As a lefty slugger, one may think that this poor luck could be attributed to opposing teams shifting on Alvarez. Between last year and this year, Alvarez has learned to hit better with the shift compared to when he’s not shifted.