See you soon: Pedro Alvarez

I missed some big call ups last week while moving from Minnesota to Washington D.C. I did stop by my ancestral home near Philadelphia long enough to drop by Citizen’s Bank Park and watch Roy Halladay dominate the Marlins (and lose, kudos Josh Johnson). The Marlins had already ruined a mostly finished article by calling up Mike Stanton while I was on the road. From my one day of live scouting, I can say that Stanton was visibly over matched, but then again some really good players are routinely over matched by Doc.

So that’s my apology/excuse for missing Stanton. Thankfully I still have time to get this guy:

Pedro Alvarez: (.285/.370/.549, 13 HR, 31 BB, 66 K) – The third baseman is expected to complete his climb to the majors sometime in the near future. This isn’t necessarily because he is or isn’t ready. Like with Jose Tabata, the Pirates can afford to take a look and teach him at the big league level due to the franchise’s continued struggles. The Buccos are currently 17 games below .500 and aside from Andrew McCutcheon, the team lacks the kind of exciting players that draw fan attention.

Before taking a look at what Alvarez might do at the big league level, let’s reflect on what the men in his way have done.

The season began with Andy LaRoche and Jeff Clement seeing the majority of the time at the infield corners. The jury was out on Clement as many scouts and online analysts seemed to agree that his bat wouldn’t quite be good enough to be a second division starter at first base. This turned out to be an understatement. Before Jose Tabata bumped the flailing former farmhand from the roster, Clement had managed a painful .242 wOBA and -1.1 WAR. While his minor league numbers suggest he’s a better hitter, Clement has failed to capitalize on his opportunities. It’s hard to imagine where he’ll find his next shot at big league success. Since his demotion, first base has been (perhaps temporarily) occupied by Ryan Doumit with Garrett Jones continuing to spot start at the position when Ryan Church gets into the lineup. Jason Jaramillo has taken over as the full time catcher.

You would think that Mr Alvarez might be taking his snaps at first base given the mess Clement created, but things have been just as grisly at Pedro’s natural position across the diamond. As David Golebiewski noted earlier today, what was expected by some to be a break out campaign for Andy LaRoche has turned into a potential career ruiner. A .281 wOBA and uncharacteristically poor fielding have LaRoche at -1 WAR. Given that, it seems certain that Alvarez will be replacing him at third in the very near future.

Scouting reports on Alvarez’ defense have been mixed. From what I can gather, scouts are fairly satisfied with his arm and hands, it’s his range they wonder about. If one wants to put a positive spin on things, the Pirates have the luxury of not needing to worry much about that. The Pirates will do their best to keep him at third until another prospect materializes. That could be a couple years down the line or it could even be semi-permanent.

Of course, Pedro’s prospect clout is tied up in his bat. THT Forecasts indicates his minor league performance translates to a .251/.327/.462 triple slash, good for a .341 wOBA. His Oliver projection expects a slightly better .351 wOBA. I’m inclined to agree with Oliver since a horrid April has his numbers skewed down considerably. It’s possible he could be a slow starter, although it’s far too early in his career to seriously wonder about that. He’s had good plate discipline in the minors (11.6 BB% this year, 12.7% career) so we’ll have to watch that at the major league level. If he’s over matched, it’ll probably show up in low walk numbers and a strike out rate over 20%.

Things have come together nicely for Alvarez. There’s no longer any meaningful personnel standing in his way and a call up could come at any moment. We’re left with only two questions, how long can he last at third and will the bat be elite or merely good?

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Justin Mosovsky
Justin Mosovsky

You said it would be a sign of him being over matched if in the bigs he had a SO rate of over 20%.  I do not believe that is necessarily the case.  His SO rate in AAA is 24.4% at the moment and he is still considered successful.  I think we both agree his SO rate won’t be much lower in the bigs, and that it will probably be higher possibly.  I see Alvarez as Ryan Howard lite in the big leagues, a guy who will still be able to be successful, despite having SO issues throughout his career,… Read more »

Brad Johnson
Brad Johnson

Good point.

What I was trying to get across was that if his walk rate halves and his strike out rate remains more or less unchanged, he’s going to have trouble being the franchise player he’s expected to be. If that walk rate remains healthy or he nips a good bit off his strike outs, his power will carry him.