Yordan Alvarez hasn't quite been cleared for Major League takeoff, but he won't be far from the launching pad to begin the 2019 season.
The Astros reassigned MLB.com's No. 44 overall prospect to Minor League camp Tuesday, the club announced. Alvarez is expected to open the season at Triple-A Round Rock in its first season since 2010 as a Houston affiliate. No. 23 Astros prospect Abraham Toro was also reassigned while No. 9 Cionel Perez and No. 16 Myles Straw were officially optioned.
Alvarez went 12-for-40 (.300) with three doubles and six walks in 19 Grapefruit League games this spring.
The Cuba native has become a Top-100 prospect based on his offensive promise. The left-handed hitter produced a .293/.369/.534 line with 20 homers and 21 doubles over 88 games between Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Fresno last season. Out of the 86 Minor Leaguers to go deep at least 20 times in 2018, he was just one of nine to do so in fewer than 400 plate appearances. There could even more power to come from the 6-foot-5, 225-pound slugger as he improves his flyball/groundball ratio.
Video: Alvarez blasts two-run shot for Grizzlies
His defense remains an issue, however. The 21-year-old has played mostly left field during his three seasons in the Minors but is widely considered a below-average defender. He has some experience at first base, where his size and offensive profile could fit, but the Astros gave him only 36 1/3 innings at the position in 2018 (all at Double-A). All 15 of his defensive appearances this spring came in left. With the addition of Michael Brantley this offseason and Kyle Tucker ahead of him on the outfield depth chart, Alvarez might get a long time to continue his defensive development back in the Pacific Coast League.
Perez and Straw are both also ticketed for Round Rock after making their Major League debuts in 2018. Perez made eight appearances out of the Houston bullpen following his July 11 debut, but the left-hander should feature in the Express rotation with his plus fastball and above-average slider. Straw was the Minor League leader with 70 stolen bases in 2018 and that speed (along with his impressive defensive acumen in center) earned him playing time in September and the playoffs. Along with Tucker and Alvarez and another optioned player in Derek Fisher, he should form one of the Minors' most promising outfields in Round Rock.
Toro did his best to make an impression in Major League camp with a .324/.375/.568 line, two homers and 13 RBIs in 20 games. The switch-hitting third baseman is seen as an average hitter, but seems to be improving his profile after this spring and his impressive performance in the Arizona Fall League (.348/.463/.561 in 19 games).