Pedro Alvarez: Year One

This time last year Pedro Alvarez and his agent Lucifer Scott Boras filed a grievance against the Pirates, stating that Alvarez didn’t sign with the Pirates before the August 15th midnight deadline. A year later, after settling in late September, Alvarez is wrapping up a very successful start to his professional career.

Alvarez didn’t exactly live up to the expectations for his first year, although the expectations may have been a bit too much. For example, there were some outlets who thought Alvarez would be in the majors this year, and not in a “he could be a September call-up” sense. So when Alvarez started off with a .219 average and a .738 OPS in his first month at high A, a lot of concerns were brought up.

Alvarez slowly progressed at Lynchburg. In his second month he hit for a .262 average with a .852 OPS. He also improved his strikeout rate from 30.1% to 28.2%. In his third month he hit for a .254 average with a .886 OPS, and a 28.4% strikeout rate. Apart from the 13.40 AB/HR ratio in the month of June (which was an improvement over his 19.56 AB/HR ratio to that point), Alvarez didn’t show much improvement in the month of June, at least not enough to force a call-up.

Alvarez did receive a call-up, with a lot of theories suggesting that he would see better pitches in AA, and with better pitches would improve his numbers. As someone who saw Pedro play several times in Lynchburg, I can say that he didn’t receive too many good pitches to hit, which backs that theory. On the other side of the theory, what’s to stop a pitcher with more talent from throwing nothing but junk, knowing Alvarez will continue his poor strikeout ways?

Alvarez started off slow in AA, with a .120 average and a .548 OPS in his first 25 at-bats in Altoona. That included two homers and ten strikeouts. The early return suggested that promoting Alvarez was a mistake, with his poor numbers in Lynchburg looking much worse in Altoona. I don’t think anyone could have predicted what happened next.

Maybe it was a little bit of the “he needs to face better pitches” theory. Maybe he rose to the challenge of a new level. Maybe it was the rust finally wearing off, which could be the big factor, as Alvarez’s grievance and holdout last year kept him out of baseball for nearly a year. Whatever it was, Alvarez went on a tear immediately after tearing off the calendar page for the month of June.

Pedro suffered a knee injury that kept him out a few games at the end of June and the start of July. Upon returning he went on a modest six game hitting streak, and recorded hits in 14 of his first 16 games in the month of July, taking his average from .120 to .287 in the span of just over two weeks. In the month of July, Alvarez hit for a .352 average, with a .976 OPS and a 23.9% strikeout rate. These were the numbers we were expecting at the start of the year.

Alvarez followed that up with an even stronger August. Alvarez hit for a .368 average in the month of August, with an incredible 1.136 OPS, thanks to seven homers in 106 at-bats (15.14 AB/HR). The strikeouts stayed modest, with a 24.5% ratio.

Alvarez finished the season in Altoona with a .333/.420/.589 line in 219 at-bats, with 13 homers, and a 26% strikeout ratio. That’s a major improvement over his .247/.342/.486 line in 243 at-bats with Lynchburg, including 14 homers and a 28.8% strikeout ratio. Overall Alvarez finished with 27 homers in 462 at-bats (17.11 AB/HR), and a .288/.378/.535 line. Not bad for five months of work.

Alvarez has played his final game of the season for Altoona, and will join Team USA for the World Cup, where he will hopefully continue his success. We will likely see Alvarez start next year at AAA, as I doubt he will return to Altoona after putting up a .361/.452/.613 line in his final two months of the season. If his time at AAA goes just like his time with Altoona, then we will likely see Alvarez getting the call in June of 2010, just in time to avoid Super Two status (thus potentially saving the Pirates millions), all while delaying his free agency eligibility until after the 2016 season.

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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • Lee Young

    Now if we could just fix his fielding? 5 errors?


    • piratemike

      Lets just hope he keeps hitting………..One problem at a time…Geez.

      • Lee Young

         good point….besides, if he does hit well, we can live with the fielding like we lived with Bonilla’s.

  • James Vargo

    Now bat him forth please. That’s his natural spot and he can be an RBI machine, like he was in college and the minors. 

    • piratemike

      See above reply to  Lee Young.

  • szielinski

    The Pirates can replace McCutchen with a player nearly as good.

    The Pirates can replace Taillon with Cole and vice versa.

    The Pirates can replace Neil Walker with someone nearly as good.

    The Pirates have no one who can replace El Toro.

    Alvarez can do things the Pirates desperately need a player to do. Only Josh Bell looks to have power that approaches El Toro’s. There was never any question that the Pirates would do whatever it would take to get Alvarez on track. Alvarez is the most important player on the team and in the system.

    • Steve Dimmick

      im not sure the pirates will see pitchers like Taillon or Cole in the next few drafts and there doesnt seem to be anyone as comparable as those two, so no, i disagree they are replaceable as they are not.

      • szielinski

         I believe you misread what I wrote. Tallion and Cole can replace each other.  If one goes down, the Pirates have another potential Ace. If the Pirates get Giolito at 1.8, he can replace either one. Likewise Heridia if he develops.

        The Pirates have no one that can replace Alvarez. They are unlikely to draft someone to replace Alvarez unless the team has a few additional >100 loss seasons. Perhaps Josh Bell if he develops.

  • leadoff

    Something I like about Alvarez is that unlike a lot of left hand power hitters in baseball, the other teams can’t really go into any special shifts with him because the Pirates have taught him to go to all fields and that is special for a power hitter.

  • cocktailsfor2

    I said all along that I thought it was the right decision to let him hit his way out of it.

    [pats self on back]

  • BarryJT

    I’m on the record saying that Pedro belonged in AAA and I’m very happy about his last two weeks.  But I have to laugh at all the hyperbole now being spouted about him.  It’s two good weeks, following two completely, scarily bad weeks.  He’s earned the right to be up with the big club, but let’s wait until the end of July at least to see where he’s at before we say problem solved.

    • Randy Linville

      BarryJT – I was with you on the ‘send him down’ team. Hopefully two good weeks will turn into five good months.

  • James Vargo

    None of this beats the fact I hate the Cardinals. Sigh….

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