Canes Catalyst Patrick Alvarez Shines On Day 1 Of Wilson Premier Classic
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.—The returning champions of the 2017 Wilson Premier Classic wasted no time in establishing themselves during the 2018 edition of the event, as the Canes National team beat Kentucky Baseball Club, 10-2, Friday afternoon.
If the 2017 squad served as any sort of model for success, the 2018 Canes should find themselves in prime position to repeat, with a dynamic leadoff hitter to spark the offense in the form of 5-foot-7 middle infielder Patrick Alvarez.
A year ago at this event, 5-foot-10 shortstop Xavier Edwards was the man in the No. 1 spot for the Canes, and his speed and proclivity for barreling the baseball allowed himself and his teammates to have success.
After being selected by the Padres in the supplemental first round of the MLB Draft, Edwards is now making a name for himself in pro ball, while Alvarez—a North Carolina commit—has been thrown in the catalyst role for the Canes.
And he’s taking to it just fine.
“I just try to play the game the right way,” Alvarez said. “Try to play hard, try to play fast, and I’m not one of the bigger guys but I can hit one out here and there.”
Alvarez went 3-for-4 Friday, coming just a single shy of hitting for the cycle with a pair of runs, four RBIs and two stolen bases. He reached on an error in his first at-bat before doubling down the left-field line in his second trip to the plate, homering on an elevated fastball in his second plate appearance and stretching a triple in his fourth and final at-bat.
“I just think it sparks everybody else, makes everybody else play up to that level,” said Canes assistant coach Tim Lowery. “They kind of look at him knowing he’s going to get on base every time—or at least the majority of the time. And he just goes after it.”
Listed at just 5-foot-7, 160-pounds, Alvarez appears—at first glance—to be your typical small and speedy middle infielder. After reaching in his first plate appearance, Alvarez wasted no time showing off his legs, stealing both second and third base, displaying impressive jumps and foot speed. He again showed his raw speed after driving an inside pitch down the left-field line and doubling in his second at-bat.
But despite his small frame and speed, there is some real pop in Alvarez’ swing, as he showed by taking advantage of an elevated 80 mph fastball that RHP Jacob Dupps left up and over the plate.
“I play like a small guy—I am a smaller guy,” Alvarez said, laughing. “But here and there I can pull one out like the big boys … I was actually looking curveball (during that plate appearance). He had been throwing curves to a lot of people and I figured after he threw me three straight fastballs (he’d come back with a curve). He was missing, I was a little out in front, so I sat back and wanted a strike. And he gave me one. And I took advantage of it.”
After showing his power-speed combo in separate plate appearances, Alvarez combined them during his fourth, when he again barreled an elevated fastball to deep left field and turned what looked like a double off the bat into a triple with an aggressive turn around second and a head-first slide into third.
Alvarez wasn’t challenged much defensively at second base, with just two routine defensive chances that he converted with no problem. But he showed sure hands and solid footwork on those plays and says he feels at home at either second base or shortstop.
A native of Charlotte, N.C., Alvarez attends Myers Park High, which is just two hours away from Boshamer Stadium, where the middle infielder will be playing his collegiate ball if he makes it to campus next fall.
“I love the culture,” Alvarez said. “Being from North Carolina, being a North Carolina fan, (I love) Chapel Hill and the vibe that it brings. To be going to my dream school is awesome and the coaching staff is truly one of the best coaching staffs I’ve ever talked to.”
Until that time, Alvarez is continuing to work on his speed and power, getting stronger in the weight room and cutting down on his 60-yard dash with footwork and parachute drills—and, of course, continuing to set the table for the Canes.
“He’s got a great baseball IQ,” Lowery said. “The kid plays hard, he does everything that you ask. That’s the type of kid you want playing for you at all times.”