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Promotion Watch: Pedro Alvarez

With Jason Heyward, Stephen Strasburg, Mike Stanton, Buster Posey, Neftali Feliz, and Carlos Santana now in the big leagues, just four of Marc’s preseason top ten prospects are left in the minors leagues. In all likelihood, the next mega-prospect to get the call will be Pedro Alvarez of the Pirates, and there are indications that he will join the team as soon as tomorrow.

If you’re reading this site, you’re no doubt familiar with Mr. Alvarez and what he can bring to the table. Baseball America describes him as having “tremendous raw power to all fields” with “good pitch-recognition skills,” but notes “can be caught off balance by breaking balls from lefthanders.” That last part is the biggest concern, because he’ll be playing in a division with Jaime Garcia, Ted Lilly, Manny Parra, Chris Narveson, Wandy Rodriguez, and Randy Wolf. Not exactly an awe-inspiring collection of southpaws, but enough that you’ll need a decent platoon partner.

Alvarez is hitting .280 with a stout .260 ISO in Triple-A this year, which are right in line with his career totals of .286 and .251, respectively. MinorLeagueSplits.com indicates a reverse split in a limited sample this year (1.073 OPS vs. LHP, .869 vs. RHB), but his career totals (.810 OPS vs. LHP, .971 vs. RHP) reflect Baseball America’s scouting report. Alvarez can swing and miss with the best of them, striking out in close to 28% of his minor league plate appearances.

CHONE projected a .231/.299/.400 batting line with 16 HR and 54 RBI in 403 plate appearances before the season, and that seems very reasonable if the Bucs are going to run him out there every day, lefthander or otherwise. If they platoon him, I’d expect something more along the lines of .250/.330/.450, though that’s nothing more than a hunch. I am concerned about all the strikeouts, because bush league strikeout totals do have some predictive value; Chris Davis struck out in close to 27% of his minor league at-bats, for example.

Even if it doesn’t happen tomorrow, the Pirates will inevitably call Alvarez up at some point this month. Pittsburgh has a dreadful offense (team .297 wOBA), so he won’t get much help and the RBI opportunities will be few are far between. The homerun potential alone makes him a worthy fantasy add, even moreso in deeper leagues. You’ll take a bit of a hit in AVG, so make sure you can mitigate at some other spots. Chances are Alvarez will have better trade value than true worth later in the summer based on hype and name recognition alone.