Even if nothing had changed, watching Nebraska’s Luis Alvarado play in 2018 would be reason enough to get excited.
An excellent athlete with tools that jump off the page, the outfielder from Puerto Rico has been a quality contributor for the Cornhuskers for three seasons. In 2017, he hit .283 with 12 doubles, and although Nebraska didn’t run very much as a team outside of Jake Meyers and his 20 stolen bases, he was a perfect 5-for-5 in stolen bases, a total good for third on the team. Beyond all that, he’s just simply an exciting talent who seems capable of doing something incredible every time he’s on the field.
But things have changed to make watching him in 2018 even more captivating.
Alvarado has pitched in the past. In fact, in 2017, he appeared in 16 games on the mound, throwing 15.2 innings with a 1.72 ERA, 10 saves, and a .182 opponent batting average. He was good enough, in fact, to garner attention from pro scouts. Alvarado was selected in the 13th round of the most recent MLB Draft and the primary interest was in having the righty pitch professionally.
Alvarado got the hint from the scouts, and in 2018, he’s going to focus his efforts on the mound, but not in pro baseball quite yet, as he’ll be back in Lincoln for the 2018 season. Furthermore, he’s got his eye on becoming a starter, which will be a need for the Huskers in 2018, what with Jake Meyers and Derek Burkamper no longer around.
“I’m not going to just quit hitting, but the concentration will be on pitching,” Alvarado told Evan Bland of the Omaha World-Herald at the start of Nebraska’s fall practice. “…I think it was a good decision, giving myself another full year of pitching. I think it will be good for me.”
With Alvarado’s live arm (his fastball runs into the low-90s) and the relative lack of mileage on his metaphorical odometer, he’ll certainly be an intriguing option for head coach Darin Erstad and pitching coach Ted Silva.
It remains to be seen how he’ll do once the spring season begins, but his first test with extended innings went extremely well. Over the summer on the Cape with the Bourne Braves, he had a 0.91 ERA in 19.2 innings across seven appearances with 18 strikeouts, showing he’s capable of being more than a short reliever.
That’s a great first step for his development, but doing that and starting every weekend for the Huskers come the springtime are two different things.
With that said, he has the tools. That much was clear based on his draft stock as a pitcher. No matter how small the sample size, he also has a track record of success now. And with Nebraska needing weekend starters to replace those who have departed the program, he’ll have the opportunity. That’s the recipe for a pretty interesting 2018 season for Luis Alvarado.