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Sunday, November 27, 2022

Andres Alvarez: Don’t Overlook the Underdog

Organizational players have long been a staple of every team’s minor league system.  That’s rapidly becoming less true, with MLB cutting both the size of the minors and the length of the draft. The latter is down to 20 rounds now, which wouldn’t leave room for, say, Andres Alvarez, the Pirates’ 22nd round pick out of Washington State in 2019.

A college senior drafted that late doesn’t have an easy path to stay in the system for more than a couple years.  Alvarez seemed an especially unlikely candidate.  He was a good defensive shortstop in college, but his hitting peaked at an OPS of .756.  The Pirates sent him to the Gulf Coast League and he hit just .235/.336/.326 against the younger pitchers there.

So it looked like Alvarez was destined to be a lower-level utility guy.  After the lost 2020 season, he stayed in extended spring training in 2021 until the beginning of July, when the Pirates sent him to Greensboro to fill an opening.  He didn’t hit much in July, but then he started hitting, for power even.  Big months of August and September left him with a line of .288/.367/.482, with six home runs.

Of course, this was a sample size of just 138 at-bats, and Alvarez had a very big home/road split, like most hitters based in Greensboro.  The Pirates, though, must think it had at least some legitimacy, as they moved Alvarez up to Altoona this year.  That means he outlasted earlier — in some cases much earlier — picks from the last several years, such as Ethan Paul, Cory Wood, Dylan Busby, Mike Gretler, and Zack Kone.

Alvarez hasn’t played a great deal so far for the Curve, but he’s done well when he’s had chances.  In twelve plate appearances, he has two hits and four walks.  What’s more, both hits left the park.

As a pro, Alvarez has split his time among second, third and short.  He’s a reliable defender with decent range.

It’s hard to see Alvarez getting past Triple-A, considering the Pirates logjam of infield prospects.  Their obsession with no-upside deadenders won’t help, either.  But he’s done well against the odds already.


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Andres Alvarez: Don’t Overlook the Underdog

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Having followed the Pirates fanatically since 1965, Wilbur Miller is one of the fast-dwindling number of fans who’ve actually seen good Pirate teams. He’s even seen Hall-of-Fame Pirates who didn’t get traded mid-career, if you can imagine such a thing. His first in-person game was a 5-4, 11-inning win at Forbes Field over Milwaukee (no, not that one). He’s been writing about the Pirates at various locations online for over 20 years. It has its frustrations, but it’s certainly more cathartic than writing legal stuff. Wilbur is retired and now lives in Bradenton with his wife and three temperamental cats.


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