June 16, 2010

Happy Alvarez Day!

PITTSBURGH, Pa. / June 16, 2010

A day later than I speculated, top prospect Pedro Alvarez will join the club for today's game against the White Sox. Apparently management doubted his ability to hit Freddy Garcia's 86 mile per hour fastball, so they held off until the lefthanded Alvarez could face on of the top ten lefties in the game, John Danks.

Alvarez provides some much-needed pop for the lineup. He was hitting .277/.363/.533 at Indianapolis with 13 home runs and 53 RBI. I think he'll hit sixth in the revamped lineup.

This is an exciting time for the Pirates - as exciting as a 23-41 team can be while on a nine game losing streak. I think Pirates fans will look back on this year as the year a talented young core came together, sort of like the '86 club which first featured Bonds, Bonilla and Van Slyke together.

What to Expect This Year
In the major leagues, Alvarez is not likely to hit for a good average as long as he strikes out more than once a game. However, he has walked in 12.6% of his plate appearances which is the most repeatable hitting skill. So if he hits .250 like I think he will, he'll be good for at least a .350 on base percentage. As far as power, I think Alvarez has 28 home run talent right now in his age 23 year. That means I expect 17 home runs over the rest of the season.

Fangraphs quotes a projection of .231/.299/.400. Are you serious, Fangraphs? How is Alvarez a top 10 prospect if you think he'll be no better than Steven Pearce? Conservatively I am expecting a slash line of .250/.350/.450, but of course I"m hoping for more.
Alvarez is supposedly a below average third baseman. Fielding percentage ain't everything but his career one is .926, not good. But with a power bat I am willing to let him learn on the major league level. Andy LaRoche didn't get to nearly as many balls this year as last anyway.

Finally, Alvarez has the reputation of being slow. Eh, he had four triples at Indianapolis and attempted seven steals. I'm thinking he has average speed. Not that you'll want to hit and run with any of the guys behind him anyway.

Who goes?
Finally, there is the matter of who to drop for Alvarez. I wouldn't worry too much about that. Here are the candidates:

Ryan Church .179/.220/.208, 2 home runs
Bobby Crosby .232/.311/.305, 1 home run
Akinori Iwamura .182/.292/.267, 2 home runs
Andy LaRoche .232/.295/.316, 3 home runs
Delwyn Young .231/.268/.429, 3 home runs

What a crapfest. I think Crosby is safe because he's one of only two players on the roster who can play shortstop. His versatility to play any infield position poorly really is an asset to the team. LaRoche is superfluous but out of options and wouldn't clear waivers, so he'll remain unless there's a trade.

Delwyn Young is arbitration eligible after this year and I expect him to be non-tendered. Yet, like Crosby he has the flexibility to play many positions poorly. It wouldn't be a horrible move to release him, but there are better options:

Church and Iwamura are two pending free agents who have been absolutely awful and have no chance of returning. Iwamura would be my choice to go. If Iwamura and LaRoche both remain, we're left with three-fifths of our bench (LaRoche, Iwamura, Jaramillo) able to play only one position each. The Pirates would be eating about $3 million in salary if they make this move, but it's better than wasting the money and a bench spot.

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