Pedro Alvarez An Answer In Pittsburgh?

There’s no denying how excellent a story the Pittsburgh Pirates are this year, spending a few days in first and sitting only a half-game back in the NL Central only a year removed from a depressing 58-win season. There’s also no denying this run wouldn’t be possible without some help from an immensely flawed division. The Brewers have been sub-replacement at shortstop and third base, the Cardinals at shorstop and in the bullpen. The Reds have fewer glaring holes, but have been weak at shortstop, left field, and in the starting rotation.

It doesn’t matter how it’s happened, though. What matters is that the Pirates sit in the thick of a pennant race for the first time in years. The black and yellow are not without flaws of their own — specifically, the Pirates have been at or below replacement level at both first base and third base, and likely need to rectify this situation to have much of a chance at the division title. The Pirates have been active in the trade market according to the rumor mill, but one solution may be sitting in Triple-A right now. That solution is Pedro Alvarez, who recently returned from a quadriceps injury and is tearing up the International League to the tune of a .424 wOBA.

Alvarez struggled to open the 2011 season even before his injury, showing absolutely no power as part of his .208/.283/.304 slash line. But it’s difficult to ignore his overall minor league success — Alvarez posted ISOs above .200 in AA and AAA at ages 22 and 23, and posted overall wOBAs near or above .400 as a result. ZiPS projects him for a .338 wOBA going forward, a .254/.326/.446 line that would be considered disappointing after last season’s excellent rookie campaign but still well above the league average in today’s suppressed offensive environment.

He would hardly need to play that well to improve the team’s offense at third base. So far, the Pirates have only managed a .222/.280/.322 line at the hot corner thanks to the incompetence of Brandon Wood, Steve Pearce, Josh Harrison, and Chase d’Arnaud, as well as Alvarez himself. However, seeing as the Pirates defense had been a key reason behind their success this season — they rank fourth in the majors in defensive efficiency — they may not want to put Alvarez at the hot corner, as his defense has been poor by the numbers and some scouts envision first base as his future home.

Perhaps Alvarez’s future home should become his present home. As much a problem as third base has been, first base has been even worse for Pittsburgh, as Lyle Overbay has floundered his way to a .236/.304/.357 slash line and -0.7 WAR. Again, Alvarez hardly even needs to reach his numbers from 2010 or his projections for 2011 to be a major upgrade for the Pirates. The Pirates pretty clearly need another bat — their 87 wRC+ ranks in the bottom 10 in the majors — and inserting Alvarez for Overbay seems like a fine way to solve that issue without sacrificing much, if anything, on defense.

The Pirates may want to see a bit more from Alvarez at the Triple-A level to be sure he’s over his quadriceps issue, and there’s no need to rush him back from injury, although his performance at Indianapolis seems to suggest he’s ready to go. An Alvarez call-up would be perfect for this young team — it adds some talent to the MLB squad without sacrificing talent for the future.

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27 Responses to “Pedro Alvarez An Answer In Pittsburgh?”

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  1. Annie says:

    That was actually a 57-win season last year (even more depressing).

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  2. Justin says:

    Great post. However I do not believe just adding Pedro Alvarez to the lineup will be enough. Lyle Overbay is a cancer to that lineup and needs to be replaced. One more obvious option I think would be to nab Carlos Pena for the rest of the year. A more intriguing option I think that would not only be insurance to another Pedro struggle would be to add Chris Davis from the Rangers (should they take prospects in return). Go Bucs.

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    • Sean O'Neill says:

      Chris Davis is a fascinating idea, and a guy who clearly seems like a “change of scenery” type. Given the Pirates didn’t go with Rendon at #1, I’d have to imagine that Alvarez will be given a couple more years at 3B, so installing Davis (whose got a pretty good glove) at 1B wouldn’t cause any immediate issue. That said, I have no idea what the Pirates would deal to the Rangers for him. Could the Pirates handle trading a reliever?

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      • Rick says:

        Dealing a bullpen part is plausible. They do have Meek rehabbing, and they could either bump one of the starters to the pen when Ohlendorf gets healthy or let him build up out there for the rest of the season.

        The problem with both those guys is that they are coming off shoulder injuries, which is always a dicey situation.

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      • Justin says:

        I don’t think taking a piece away from their bullpen is something that Pittsburgh would consider. The pen is already thin and a bit overworked, and the Bucs are said to be looking for relief pitching so I do not see that happening personally. But it is a good thought. I just don’t think the Rangers would be interested in anybody in the pen besides Hanrahan whom the Pirates definitely would not move should they be making a playoff push.But Chris Davis could provide some pop from the corners, and should Pedro continue his regression at 3rd base Davis has played there (though subpar) this year also, as well as at first. As I mentioned in the previous post, getting Lyle Overbay out of the lineup should be priority number 1 for Neal Huntington.

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  3. Schide says:

    Bringing Pedro up to play third is fair, and he will probably be up sometime next week, because if he stays down longer than 20 days he’ll use up his last option . There’s still a chance he could be called up by tomorrow, but from what I’ve heard (radio, internet reports, what have you) they want to keep him until until they’re absolutely sure he’s ready, both at the plate and defensively at third, even though he hasn’t started every game at third.

    But you do realize that a player can’t just automatically go and play 1st without any practice at all, right? It’s the easiest position to be sure, and he’ll most likely end up there, but players need to actually practice and have game time at 1st for a decent amount of time before they can play that position for the major league team, and Pedro has zero experience there. The earliest you’re going to see him is next year, when he would be able to play and practice there in the offseason and in spring training.

    So even though Overbay has been pretty bad at first this year defensively, I do think Pedro would be a lot worse there if you just put him in. But they’re not going to do that anyway, so it’s a moot point.

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  4. baty says:

    It’s inevitable that Pedro’s future is at first base, but I wonder if you have to fix first base another way for the time being. Defense has been a key lately, but there’s no way the Pirates stay in this thing without an offensive resurgence from Pedro. I think learning a new position while trying to fix his approach could be asking for a lot from a “rookie” trying to be a major part of a playoff run. Maybe it wouldn’t… If it’s something he can handle adequately. It’s an interesting risk to consider, as long as learning a new defensive position in the minors doesn’t keep him down there longer than what the Pirates hope for as he becomes “ready” to return offensively.

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  5. Carlmart says:

    The Pirates are playing waaaay over their head. They should unload what they can while they can and get some good talent so they can compete in future years when some of their younger players reach their full potential.

    Just think, the Cardinals roster is aging and they will be out of contention in the near future. The Astros and Cubs will likely never put together a winning product. And the Brewers are about to lose their #1 power threat. The window for the Pirates to compete will be wide open soon and will stay that way for a few years to come, and it would be wise for the Pirates to be ready then.

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    • PiratesHurdles says:

      They arn’t that far over their head, Karstens is the only SP who has a huge ERA/xFIP gap and their run differential is in line with their record. Their babip for and agiants isn’t too out of line with league averages.

      Its has been amazing though, doing it without Alvarez and so many other key injuries.

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    • Pat says:

      They will still be able to compete the next few seasons, in fact they should be even better if they decide to build on this year’s success and raise payroll from the increased profits they will be earning from attendance this season. Getting some marginal prospects for the Pirates best players would be a sure fire way to drive all these fans out of the ballpark that started filling it up the past few months.

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      • mike wants wins says:

        Agreed. They should be buyers right now. Who knows, mabye McCutchen gets hurt next year. Maybe someone regresses. When you have a shot, you should take the shot. Plus, they need the goodwill with the fans.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      So, the Pirates should unload players so they can be in a similar position in future seasons?

      At or near 1st place in mid-July … in a year when the Cards are down because of injuries (namely Wainwright) and Reds are playing well under their talent level?

      This is the best chance PIT will have in the next few years, IMHO.

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  6. Greg says:

    Stick Alarez at his long term home (1B) then trade for Chase Headley. Both Headley and Alvarez could be league average defensively at their respective positions while offering improvement on offense. I would be curious to hear the Padres demands for Headley in terms of prospects.

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    • kick me in the GO NATS says:

      the demand for Headley should be fairly large I would think. He is one of the better 3bs in the NL right now, and the best daily player on the Padres.

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  7. Eminor3rd says:

    Pirates should be able to get Pena for nothing, no-brainer here. Bring Alvarez up too and let him try to outhit Brandon Wood.

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  8. guy says:

    Look at that BABIP and strikeout rate. Alvarez has problems that are better fixed at triple A.

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  9. Robbie G. says:

    At first glance, I thought that the last sentence in this article’s first paragraph read “The Reds have fewer glory holes…”

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  10. Robbie G. says:

    While Jose Reyes has pretty obviously been the NL MVP thus far, we know that voters these days (stupidly) like to vote for guys whose teams make the playoffs. If Pittsburgh wins their division, and Andrew McCutchen keeps this up, is he going to emerge as the leading candidate for MVP? Signs point to yes. Particularly since the return of the Pirates is surely the feel good story of the year in MLB.

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  11. Jimbo Jones says:

    Jason Grilli, an answer in Pittsburgh?

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  12. DaveTN says:

    Bring Pedro up now and make the deal for Pena. Does not hurt the future and gives the Pirates two players who can hit 20 to 30 HRs a year for the rest of the season, one experienced the other one raw. Pedro is HOT, we need him now even if his defense costs a run or two a week. Do not mortgage the future.

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  13. Tim Nicksick says:

    Pedro’s future should be 1st base but tough to do wothout ever having even practiced there. He’s ready to come up so put him at 3rd, even with a below average glove, for the remainder of the year and move him to 1st in the offseason. A deal for C Pena for the rest of 2011 gives the Bucs 2 long ball threats they desperately need without mortgaging the future by moving prospects. If the Bucs happen to make the playoffs they would likely be a quick out. After 18 down years stay the course and build for the future, a 500 record this year would be a hugh step in the right direction.

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  14. We Are Family says:

    The Bucs have finally been realizing some success from yet another rebuild. Proof that this one is working. As great a run as this is, they have to stick to the plan. I don’t see any big additions coming. As a fan, I don’t want to scramble to get to the playoffs in exchange for 18 more years of darkness.

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  15. DaveinSwissvale says:

    Pearce at first period. Dump Overbay. Alvarez on third and hope that Tabata can get back soon. With Doumit playing now at Bradenton he is a couple weeks away. Dont buy anyone!!! Consider bringing Hague up from Indy if Pearce gets hurt again, which i am betting he does. We are building a championship organization here, keep signing draftees, which is where the money has been going. If we fall apart in August trade Hanrahan for two top minor leaguers who will help next year. Relief pitchers are so unpredictable anyway and they yield the most in trades pre playoff time.

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