Nic Civale is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and former NCAA Division I Baseball player. He combines his knowledge of anatomy and physiology with that of baseball mechanics to provide expectations for players who will be rehabbing this offseason. In this piece he looks at 2019 Rookie of the Year, Yordan Alvarez.
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Yordan Alvarez: The Prognosis for 2021
The Case for Greatness
We are all aware of the greatness and superstar potential that exists in Yordan Alvarez of the Houston Astros. Alvarez broke in to MLB in 2019, displaying excellent contact and power skills. He rendered dropped jaws at the sight of his monstrous home runs and did it with a cool and collected attitude. In his 89 games played at the Major League level, he’s scorched pitchers around the league. He’s totaled 68 runs, 100 hits, 28 HR, 82 RBI, and has slashed .312/.410/.654. His elite production in MLB coincided with nagging knee pain, which has since been surgically repaired. So why do we refuse to invest a high pick on him? He sits at pick 83 in NFBC drafts for the 2021 season, but I am here to make the case that this is far too low.
The Surgery and Recovery
Yordan Alvarez underwent surgery in late August of 2020 to repair a partially torn patellar tendon and to have a bilateral arthroscopic clean-up procedure of the knee joints. The implications of these surgeries are nearly as daunting as ACL repairs, or even full tendon tears, yet it seems people are being scared off like we are seeing the beginning of the end of a great career. A partial tear to a tendon cannot be looked at in the same way as a tear of a ligament, or a fracture, or a complete tear of a tendon. Each of these procedures warrants different rehabilitation processes and different expectations for recovery.
Partial Patellar Tendon Tear Repair
A partial patellar tendon tear often times does not elicit surgery. It appears Yordan tried to play through some pain in this previous season to see if he could push surgery back. This attempt was not successful, yet he managed to belt a 99 mph opposite field home run in one of his eight AB’s. The surgery that was performed repairs a slight tear in the patellar tendon (the site where your doctor tests your reflexes in a physical examination) and recovery time is expected to be 4-6 months. Surgical protocols direct running and agility exercises to be performed around month 4; Alvarez has demonstrated on his Instagram stories that he is well within the expected recovery window. He has been seen running the bases and performing other on-field training.
Knee Arthroscopy includes an arthroscopic incision, no more than 1 cm long in most cases. The surgery consists of smoothing the joint articulations in the knee so the joint will demonstrate more fluid movements. It is one of the least invasive knee surgeries performed. Carlos Gonzalez had a knee arthroscopy surgery in 2014 and followed that year up with a silver slugger award in 2015 and an All-Star appearance the year after that. Manny Machado (2021 NFBC ADP 22) has had other knee surgeries with an identical 4-6 month recovery (2013 and 2014) and he’s remained a fantasy darling through the years, despite our reliance on his steals and defense. For those who were concerned about his durability, Machado has since averaged 159 games played in full-length seasons. Machado had also never been utilized as a DH until this past year. Alfonso Soriano had an arthroscopy done at age 33 and followed that up with a four-year span of averaging 146 Games, 29 HRs and 94 RBI, and 8 SBs.
If you are still concerned about Alvarez’s knee joints, let’s take a closer look at how much he would have to run through an entire MLB season. Extrapolating his stats from his first 89 games out to a full 162, we can expect approximately 382 total bases off of batted balls.
382 total bases x 90 ft = 34,380ft
Now I’m going to subtract all of the distance ran from home runs since Yordan can take his sweet time trotting around the base paths.
34,380ft – 18360ft = 16,020ft
If we divide this by 162 games, we find that Yordan has to run only 98.9 ft per game on his own batted balls.
If Dusty Baker does not call for a pinch-runner Yordan will have to run a bit more to get home, but is this really what we are afraid of? Is this why one of the best hitters in baseball is getting passed over 81 times before being drafted? Alvarez may need to run 100-200 ft per day. The rest of the time he will be sitting on the bench, talking with Dusty Baker, and swinging a Louisville Slugger.
Additional fun fact: Alvarez had the sixth slowest HR trot time with his one bomb in 2020. He doesn’t mind taking his time.
The Perfect Storm
Over-reactions often lose managers their fantasy leagues. Taking advantage of popular over-reaction can make you a winner. Here is what we know about Yordan Alvarez:
- He is a potential generational talent who has succeeded in his time in the majors and minors
- Recovery is on schedule, according to all reputable surgical protocols
- DH slot available to him in Houston
- His 162-game average statistics are staggering; 109 Runs, 51 HR, 149 RBI and a .312 AVG
- For reference, Manny Ramirez’s 162 avg; 109 Runs, 39 HR, 129 RBI and a .312 AVG
The Devil’s Advocate
If all this doesn’t convince you and you’re still skeptical of Alvarez’s prognosis, let’s consider the possibility that he misses some time. Below are a few charts displaying extrapolated stats for 100 games, 120 games, and 140 games, based on Yordan’s career numbers. I’ve combined these Alvarez extrapolations with a few replacement-level hitters and their 2020 stats. You will see that even if Alvarez does go down with an injury or just gets periodic rest breaks, combining his stats with replacement level hitters still nets your team amazing production.
|Colin Moran (’21 ADP = 438)||52 (2020)||28||10||23|
|Mitch Moreland (’21 ADP = 529)||42 (2020)||22||10||29|
|Jacob Nottingham (’21 ADP = 591)||20 (2020)||8||4||13|
* extrapolated from career stats
If any of these total stats interest you, and you’d like to get this type of value with your 82nd pick and a waiver wire add, consider Yordan Alvarez! Obviously, we can’t project certainty in his career numbers and expect his stats to match that of 2019 without any apprehension. But the ADP slide has gone on long enough. Virtually every player picked past the first round has some sort of worry attached to them. Why not bet on a 23-year-old superstar in the making, who’s already proven he can hit with the game’s best.
For more great rankings, strategy, and analysis check out the 2021 FantraxHQ Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit. We’ll be adding more content from now right up until Opening Day!
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