Richard Alvarez. The Texas Rangers signed right-handed pitcher Richard Alvarez out of Venezuela during the International Signing Period in 2008. Jamey Newberg recently called him "the prize of the Rangers' 2008 Latin American haul," and at least one pre-signing scouting report had his fastball as high as 92 mph to go with a curveball and a change up.
On Thursday, March 19, 2009, Alvarez took the mound in the Low A minor league Spring Training game on the back fields of the Rangers' complex. In his 1 inning of work, Alvarez featured an extremely lively fastball that sat at 84-86 mph. He turned his change up over well and kept it away from the middle of the plate. The 1 curve I saw him throw was bounced intentionally for a swinging strikeout and it still looked above average.
When asked about Alvarez's velocity, one scout told me Alvarez was in the upper 80s and touching 90 after signing in 2008. Alvarez will likely hang around Surprise for several months before breaking with the short-season rookie club leaving him plenty of time to build up his arm strength and get his velocity back into the upper 80s.
Mike Hindman of InsideCorner estimates that Alvarez is about 6' 0", 170 lbs, but my impression is that both of those numbers are generous. As a 16-year-old kid, though, Alvarez certainly has room to grow. Here's your first look at Texas Rangers right-handed pitching prospect Richard Alvarez.
Very briefly, Alvarez has a late forearm turnover. It doesn't even reach vertical until after he starts to open his front shoulder. The inertia that turns his forearm over also creates some reverse forearm bounce, but his shoulder tilt helps him pick up his elbow and reduce forearm flyout. Alvarez drives hard off the rubber, but then drags his right leg stiffly after landing. He drives his shoulder through the pitch for great shoulder rotation, but he still has quite a bit of arm recoil after every pitch.
Even though this sounds pretty negative, these are problems found in most pitchers with a traditional delivery. There are things he could be doing better (forearm turnover and arm recoil), but there really isn't anything dramatically alarming about Alvarez's mechanics.
Pedro Strop. In April 2008, while in the Colorado Rockies' system, Strop was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his pitching elbow (most likely the olecranon of his ulna), and he missed the rest of the season. The Rockies designated him for assignment in September, and the Rangers signed him to a minor league contract in early November. In 2007, Strop's numbers were slightly above average for a player who had been pitching his entire life, but it was Strop's first full season as a pitcher. His strikeout rate was an amazing 12.3 per 9 innings. (Note: Strop's 2007 season was cut short by elbow tendonitis in early August.)
The Rangers have brought him along slowly this spring, and he stepped to the mound on March 17, 2009 in a Double-A minor league Spring Training game. I turn to Mike Hindman for the scouting report, "He deals a 94ish fastball with a lot of armside run, a power slider at 84-86 mph and a nasty splitter." In his 1 inning of work, Strop was all that he was cracked up to be.
In January, Kyle Boddy took a look at Pedro Strop's unique arm action. Here's some high-speed (210 frames-per-second) video from Strop's outing. (Sorry about the shaky frame; it's hard to hold a camera still when one of your arms is in a sling.)
I am concerned about Strop's health going forward. He's struggled with arm health since the end of his first full season as a pitcher, and based on this older video, it doesn't look like he plans to change his mechanics. I like the way he uses his body (good drive, landing, hip and shoulder rotation), but his arm still seems to do the same things that led to the injuries that caused him to miss almost all of the 2008 season.