February 28, 2011

2011 Position Preview: Third Base

I have rarely felt more excitement at PNC Park than the atmosphere for Pedro Alvarez's first game. Tabata and Walker are nice players, but Pedro Alvarez is the potential saviour - a bat with 40 home run potential. Alvarez will obviously be your everyday third baseman and cleanup hitter in 2011.

The last major prospect to be called up from Indianapolis last year, Pedro started 94 of 98 games after his recall. Initially, he hit poorly but fielded well. But he soon became the power-hitting, iron-gloved Pedro that we expected.

2010: 95 games, .256/.326/.461, 42 Runs, 16 HR, 64 RBI, 0 SB

Typical of a young lefthanded hitter, at age 23 Alvarez struggled against lefthanded pitching (.228/.302/.342). But his 16 home runs came in bunches that remind me of another player: Ryan Howard. The breakdown was seven home runs in 14 games from July 3-21, three in four games from Aug. 4-7, a stray homer Sept. 5, and five in 10 days from Sept. 22-Oct. 1. Once Alvarez learns to avoid extended slumps, he'll be a legitimate cleanup hitter on a championship team - that championship team being the 2011 Pirates.

The strikeout issues will always be there of course. I'm actually fine with strikeouts from a player who walks a lot, but last year Alvarez struck out 119 times and drew only 37 walks. Counting AAA he had 187 strikeouts. But counting AAA he also had 29 home runs and 117 RBI at age 23. That's an exciting young power hitter and one who already is looking like a great pick at #2 overall in 2008.

In 2011, I'm not shy about predicting a big season for Alvarez. Something like .260/.340/.490, 75 runs, 30 home runs, 100 RBI and a couple of steals. With the decreased offensive levels around baseball, that would make Alvarez one of the ten best power hitters in the National League.

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