May 21, 2010

You Can Wear Your Alvarez Jersey Eventually

Since the 2010 season dawned, much of Pirate fans' time has been devoted to waiting for Pedro Alvarez to get called up. The wait may be longer than expected.

After being picked second overall in 2008, Alvarez hit .247/.342/.486 at Lynchburg last year. Good, but not great. The hype really began after he raked at Altoona in the second half of the year, hitting .333/.419/.590 in 60 games. Those numbers, even translated to the majors, would have made Pedro the second or third best hitter on the big league club in the late summer and fall of '09.

He earned a spring training invite and hit .296/.345/.519, doing nothing to dispel the hype. Of course those stats were compiled against the same caliber of minor league pitchers he had dominated the previous fall.

By April Pedro was viewed by most fans as this season's McCutchen: a guy who would play at Indianapolis for two months and then be called up as the franchise's saviour. Among other things, this very blog included Pedro in the World Series MVP poll where he earned 10% of the vote.

By keeping a player in AAA until June a team allows a player to play the partial major league season and three more full seasons before becoming eligible for salary arbitration and a big raise. The flip side of this is that for payroll purposes, there's really no difference between calling a star prospect up in June and calling him up the following Opening Day.

The Pirates likely began the year with those designs, but their star prospect simply hasn't hit at a level that demands a June call-up. Counting last night's suspended game, Alvarez is now hitting .250/.343/.493 with 9 home runs in 41 AAA games. That's great for a player in his second year of professional baseball. But especially for a power hitter, those aren't numbers that translate into immediate major league success.

Remember, McCutchen was drafted out of high school, signed quickly and basically had four full minor league seasons before his Pittsburgh call up. Attending college is a great choice but playing college ball does delay a player's development in terms of the age when he reaches the majors. Alvarez has only seen professional pitching for less than a year and a half.

With a league average third baseman in Andy LaRoche, the Pirates have no reason to push Alvarez until he dominates at Indianapolis. That could be at the All-Star break or it could be later. It could be in 2011.

For those fans looking west to Indianapolis for help, Jose Tabata and Neil Walker are both getting on base at a near .400 clip making them far more likely to benefit the major league team this season. Alvarez should be a great one, but it just won't happen this June.

1 comment:

  1. What bothers me also is the lack of doubles by both Alvarez and Tabata. Tabata is getting a lot of hits but has only 6 doubles. As much as I am looking forward to them playing at PNC I think they might be given a look-see in Sept.The Pirates can't afford the PR hit if both these guys are not ready when the make their appearances.