Frederick hitting coach Torre Tyson is in his 10th season as a Minor League instructor. Before that, he spent five seasons as a utility man in the Red Sox and Yankees farm systems. Over those 15 years, he's seen only one player with hand speed akin to what he's seen from Dariel Alvarez this weekend.
"Some of our guys were giving me trouble for saying it, but I was comparing him to when I was around [Alfonso] Soriano in the Minors with the Yankees," Tyson said. "That's the kind of hand speed I see with him."
Saturday was Alvarez's third game with the Keys after the Cuban defector signed with the Orioles last month. He continued to make an immediate impact, going 4-for-5 with a homer, two doubles, four RBIs and three runs scored as Frederick rallied for an 8-7 victory over visiting Winston-Salem.
The Orioles announced Alvarez's signing on July 24. The 24-year-old outfielder spent five season with Camaguey of the Cuban League before defecting and spending last season in Mexico.
Alvarez was a .297 hitter with 37 homers and 180 RBIs in the Cuban League, enjoying his finest season in 2011 when he batted .363 with a 1.017 OPS and 20 home runs. Last year, he hit .317 with an .819 OPS in 192 plate appearances for Tuxpan in a Mexican minor league.
Alvarez is the second Cuban player the Orioles have signed under executive vice president Dan Duquette, who also inked Henry Urrutia last summer. Urrutia was hitting .269 in 21 games with Baltimore before being assigned to Triple-A Norfolk over the weekend.
Alvarez made his stateside debut last week in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, where he went 4-for-9 with a homer, triple and two doubles in three games. He was promoted to Frederick in time for Thursday's game and went 2-for-5 with an RBI in his Carolina League debut.
On Friday, Alvarez was 3-for-5, following that with Saturday's standout performance. Through three games, he's hitting .600 with a 1.533 OPS.
"Obviously, I've only seen these three games and I think he has like 35 hits already," Tyson joked. "The things that really impress me are just the hand speed that he possesses and his ability to get the barrel to the ball."
Alvarez homered in his first at-bat Saturday, taking Dash starter Myles Jaye deep to left field for a three-run jack. He singled in another run in the second inning, then led off the fourth with a double.
After reaching on an error in the sixth, Alvarez opened the ninth with Frederick trailing, 7-6. The right-handed hitter laced a double that rolled to the wall in right field, then scored the tying run on Zane Chavez's single two batters later. The Keys won it when Orioles No. 19 prospect Glynn Davis drew a bases-loaded walk.
Based on the three-game sample, Tyson is prepared to put Alvarez among the top players he's seen in the Carolina League this season.
There are some pretty talented guys in this league," he said. "Just from the bat speed alone and bat speed that plays. A lot of guys have bat speed but can't find the ball. I'd say he's definitely one of the top five guys we've seen in this league this year as far as 'hitability' with that bat speed goes. He's in the top tier in this league."
While Alvarez's quick hands have impressed Tyson and the rest of the Keys' coaching staff, the outfielder also made waves Saturday with his throwing arm. Tyson called that arm "a big-time tool," and the outfielder said on the team's pregame radio show that he also was scouted by Major League teams as a pitcher.
"Some organizations wanted to see that, so I did a showcase in Mexico as a pitcher," he said via translator and organizational fielding coach Ramon Sambo. "But I decided to be a hitter because that's what I've been doing my whole life."
The outfielder showed off the arm in the top of the ninth, rocketing a throw to the plate in an attempt to nail Kevan Smith as he tried to score the go-ahead run.
"I had heard he has a cannon for an arm," Tyson said. "We witnessed that tonight when he handcuffed our catcher [Michael Ohlman] with a long hop from 250 feet away. He has some tools there, there's no doubt about that."
Tyson excitement's over Alvarez's potential is evident, but the coach doesn't think the 24-year-old will move through the system as quickly as Urrutia, who began this season with Double-A Bowie and reached the Majors by mid-July.
"I would not, just from first impressions, put him in the polished category," Tyson said. "I'd put him in the raw category. He has some pretty special stuff, though. With tools like he has, it's obviously been a short time, but those tools will play at the next level."