Pittsburgh Pirates 2012 Season Recap: Third Base

When Pedro Alvarez was struggling in spring training — the third baseman hit just .170 over the 19 games — many fans were passionate about sending him to Triple-A to start the season. Alvarez developed a toe tap at the plate during the offseason, but he and Manager Clint Hurdle decided to nix it and keep things more simple at the plate. Hurdle and the organization took a lot of criticism for breaking camp with Alvarez, instead of sending him to the minors to get on track.

But the Pirates stayed patient with Alvarez, and he repaid them by having a career-year in homers — the third baseman connected for 30, blasting through his previous high of 16 set his rookie season in 2010. While Alvarez struggled with consistency — he hit just .203 and .207 in April and May to start the season — he showed why the Pirates drafted him in the first round in 2008 by the impressive bat when he’s locked in at the plate. Alvarez hit for a .322/.425/.544 line in the month of August to earn him National League Player-of-the-Week from August 27th-September 2nd after hitting .458 (11-for-24) with four home runs.

Alvarez will always be a high-risk high-reward bat, but moving forward learning to be more consistent will be key. Hurdle believes that with more experience, Alvarez has the ability to develop more consistency moving forward. The Pirates are helping him work towards making those hot streaks longer, and the rough patches, which all players go through, shorter.

 

Pedro Alvarez

Alvarez’s 30 long balls in 2012 ranked fourth among all Major League third baseman, and second in the National League. Alvarez trailed only Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera (42), Texas’ Adrian Beltre (31) and San Diego’s Chase Headley (31). Only two other players in Pirates team history have hit 30 home runs in a season while playing third base; Aramis Ramirez (34 in 2001) and Frank Thomas (31 in 1958).

Alvarez finished with a .244 average, 25 doubles, 30 home runs and 85 RBI over 149 games with Pittsburgh this season. The 25-year-old ranked seventh in the N.L. with a 17.5 AB/HR ratio. Despite the Pirates collapse in the final six weeks of the season. Alvarez was able to finish strong. The third baseman batted .275 with nine homers and 25 RBI in his last 44 games. Alvarez will continue man the hot corner moving forward.

 

Josh Harrison

Harrison broke camp with the Pirates out of spring training for the first time in his career and spent the entire season in Pittsburgh as the club’s super utility man. Harrison hit for a .233 clip with nine doubles, five triples, three homers and 16 RBI in 104 games with Pirates. Harrison made nine starts at third base, the most played behind Alvarez at the hot corner. Harrison will likely continue his utility role with the Pirates in 2013.

 

Yamaico Navarro

Navarro made the team out of spring training, but struggled out of the gates with Pittsburgh after a solid spring training in his first year with the organization. Navarro was acquired from Kansas City for minor league pitcher Brooks Pounders. The 24-year-old hit just .160 over 29 games this season.

After being sent to Triple-A in late May, Navarro made one more trip to Pittsburgh to make an impression but was optioned back to the minors. Navarro finished with a .279/.366/.491 line with Indianapolis over 66 games. Navarro made two appearances at third base in the Majors this season.

 

Jordy Mercer

Mercer appeared in 56 games at Triple-A Indianapolis to start the 2012 season before the Pirates promoted the infielder to the big leagues. In limited playing time, Mercer hit .210 with five doubles, a triple, homer and five RBI in 42 games with the Pirates. Mercer is primarily a shortstop, who can play both second and third base. The 26-year-old played in one game at third base with Pittsburgh this season.

Mercer batted .287 with Triple-A and was with the Pirates from July 6 through end of season. He will head into spring training battling for a bench role with the club.

 

Prospects

by Tim Williams

This is an easy section to write. When it comes to third base prospects, the Pirates don’t really have any. In the upper levels there are guys like Harrison and Mercer who can play the position, but don’t have the bat you want from a corner spot. Navarro probably has the best potential to provide that bat, but he’s struggled in the majors so far.

In the lower levels you have to go all the way down to he GCL, where 2012 sixth round pick Eric Wood got a lot of time at third base this year. He split time with Edwin Espinal and Kevin Ross. Espinal is a big international prospect. He’s got power potential and a plus arm, but because of his size he’s far from a guarantee to stick at third.

Ross was taken in the eighth round this year, and also has a big frame. That could lead to some power down the line, although his bat looked kind of raw in his first experience in pro ball.

The best of the three is Wood, who has shown some power potential, and has the frame and arm strength to stick at third base. That said, all three are very far away from the majors.

The Pirates have Alvarez under team control through the 2016 season. He’s a Scott Boras client, so an extension or a return as a free agent would be unlikely. That means the Pirates have four years to develop a third base prospect, or acquire one through the draft or trade. That’s a lot of time, but it doesn’t feel that way considering the lack of potential options in the minors.

Kristy Robinson

Author: Kristy Robinson

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Lease/1032731036 John Lease

    It will be interesting to see if it is the motivated Pedro that shows up at spring training, or the fat one. If he could avoid his periods of being an automatic out, he might be able to cut down his K’s to the 130 range, and get his average up to .260 or so. If he does, he’ll be able to carry the club longer than a game or two.

  • James S

    They without a doubt cannot replace Alvarez, (considering their inability to properly evaluate potential hitting additions) so the window for the team to win in the post season is now through 2016. I hope Nutting puts up some of that profit and keeps him though.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=72405411 Ian Rothermund

      Don’t forget about the fact that it’s possible for them to actually acquire talent via trade with a player like Alvarez. Maybe N.H. isn’t the best at evaluating potential trades, but arguably when the time comes to unload Pedro, if that’s what really happens, he will be the best player N.H. has ever had the luxury of trading. We’ll see I guess.

      • piratemike

        Maybe Chad Qualls will be available in 2015, If he isn’t taking Mariano’s place in NY.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=72405411 Ian Rothermund

          Pedro and McGehee…totally the same thing.

      • James S

        But my point is that they are unable to evaluate hitters. They would most certainly fumble away Alvarez for some bum that one (or more) of their cronie scouts loves for his potential but has never produced and never will. The last thing I want them doing is trying to make a trade with him. The Pirates don’t make good trades even when they have good chips to offer.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=72405411 Ian Rothermund

          I guess, in response, while I do agree with your opinion. Whether it’s been with free agent money or in trade, the Pirates have not really had any tremendous value to work with. The worst trade they managed was obviously Bay, but in regards to F.A.’s, they just haven’t ponied up the dough and haven’t had much luck either. I would argue that this past year, aside from maybe McClouth, who I think was meant to be a fourth OF, their focus was on defense in obtaining Barajas and Barmes. I’ll be very interested to see where they go with their free agent dollars this year….I think there are finally enough players establishing themselves and enough pitching in the upper minors, that it would finally be worth it to try to lure someone legitimate to the city. I guess the question that still remains is; how intriguing is Pittsburgh to free agents, whether it be from the young core players and relative improvements they’ve seen? That will determine how much they’ll have to overpay talent to come here….and regardless of that intrigue, there most definitely will be an inflated contract coming here if they can manage to bring someone in.

          Maybe the best option is, and will continue to be, to make a trade where they eat salary, like with Burnett.

          • whiteAngus

            the FO actually tried to pony up the dough, two years in a row in fact. but were rebuffed by the guys they were serious about signing. Edwin Jackson and DeLaRosa were both offered deals in the $30MM range.
            youre right about the focus on defense and with Barmes that worked out wonderfully. and youre also right about FAs wanting to come to the Burgh. overpaying is not a smart idea especially with many of the younger players we have will soon be getting pay raises and long term deals. a Burnett part 2 might work out fantastically.

      • gonfalon

        sweet Jeebus, I sure hope Neal Huntington has been replaced by someone who can identify MLB talent well before Alvarez has to be traded.

  • burgh_fan

    I know he hasn’t fully regained the prospect status he once had but Eric Avila had a very strong finish to this season. He deserves at least a passing mention here.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      I believe Avila is eligible for minor league free agency following the year. That’s why I didn’t include him.

      • burgh_fan

        Ah Thank You I did not know that. Kind of stinks that he just finally showed some of his potential and now he might leave.

  • http://twitter.com/jamesmvargo James Vargo

    What happened to Stetson Allie? Sorry, had to say it.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      Allie has been playing first base. Also, I don’t consider him a prospect as a hitter.

      • gonfalon

        Hmm… Allie had 8 errors in 9 games at 3B last year, but only 2 errors in 19 games at 1B. But at least he didn’t make any errors in his 14 starts at DH.

  • st1300b

    No similarities between McGehee and Alvarez. Alvarez power dwarfs McGehee’s. I think Pedro is very likely to sign an extension, he’s a great guy and will want to be a part of this resurgence. I don’t think he’ll be with the club past the first extension though.

  • john.alcorn

    Tim, another option would be to extend Walker and have him eventually play 3B as he ages and loses range.

  • BillT

    Pedro did make big strides at the plate this year, but how can you discuss his performance without mentioning his 27 errors at 3rd base? Granted, he made some excellent plays bear handing the ball and throwing runners out, but he botched far too many routine grounders. I’d like to see him improve on his fielding, otherwise, I think he needs to move to 1st base in the future.

    • gonfalon

      Depending on which metric you use, Alvarez’s defense at 3B actually improved in 2012 compared to 2010-11. Baseball Reference’s defensive WAR uses Defensive Runs Saved, and while he is still below average, both metrics indicated he made strides at 3B last year (-0.9 dWAR in 2010, -1.1 dWAR in 2011, but “only” -0.2 dWAR in 2012 in many more games, despite the errors). Who knows, maybe he will be an average defensive 3B in 2013.