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.