By David Heck, Special to CBS Local Sports
CBS Local Sports will be profiling one young player from each Major League Baseball team every day for the next 30 days as part of our “30 Players 30 Days” spring training feature.
Pedro Alvarez, Third Baseman, Pittsburgh Pirates
2011 season: 74 G, 235 AB, .191 AVG, 4 HR, 19 RBIs
Last year, Alvarez was supposed to break out. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 Draft, he had traveled swiftly through the minors while showing potential that made him one of the top 10 prospects in baseball. He flashed some of that upside during his rookie season in 2010, when he launched 16 homers in 95 games. It seemed only natural to conclude that with a full season and some big league experience under his belt, Alvarez had a shot at a 30-homer campaign.
Instead, Alvarez looked lost. He struggled to identify breaking balls and suffered the consequences, striking out 80 times in 235 at-bats. His .272 on-base percentage was sad, but not quite as much as his .289 slugging percentage was. His fielding and baserunning were below par. And if that wasn’t enough, Alvarez couldn’t even stay healthy, battling injury problems throughout the year. On the whole, it was likely a season he would like to forget.
But despite all that, there is still hope for Alvarez. He’s still only 25 years old, so while he’s running out of time to figure out how to hit the offspeed stuff, he’s not quite there yet. And if he does ever figure it out, he has the potential for big-time power. At 6-foot-3, 225-pounds, Alvarez can hit the ball a long way – just as long as he gets the bat on it. He’s always had fielding problems, so the chances of him staying at third base are slim no matter what happens with his hitting, but the Pirates have no long-term solutions are first base anyway.
The important thing to remember about Alvarez is that everything in his career suggests that last year was the exception to the rule. He didn’t exactly dominate the minors, but he did well enough for his age at every level. And no-talent players don’t often luck their way into hitting the way he did his rookie season. He’s not going to be a .300 hitter, but a guy who bats .250, takes an occasional walk and hits for power? That’s certainly in the cards. Alvarez might not be the star he looked like a year ago, but there’s still time for him to realize that upside.
Next up on March 25: Cincinnati Reds