Pedro Alvarez Holds The Key For The Pittsburgh Pirates In 2012

By Steve Garrity

 .500, for any Pittsburgh Pirates fan this number has more significance than 715, 406, or 4256.  In the 19 years since Pittsburgh fans have seen a winning baseball club Major League Baseball has added four new teams all of which have made it to at least one world series, everyone else in the NL Central has won the division at least once, an 86 year curse has ended, and ten different teams have been crowned champions. In that time Pittsburgh as also had 22 first round draft picks (including the number one overall pick three times) and have developed only one All-Star out of the bunch, current outfielder Andrew McCutchen.

McCutchen did all he could to end the losing streak in 2011, carrying the suprise Pirates to a winning record as deep as July but with not a lot of help behind him outside of developing second basemen Neil Walker they fell back down to earth. ForPittsbugh fans .500 would mean a future, no more seasons of being out of it before it really has a chance to start. But Andrew McCutchen  and Neil Walker can’t do it alone, they need that bat behind them in the lineup and that job has to fall squarely on the shoulders of 2008 second overall pick, Pedro Alvarez.

 To many around baseball Alvarez should have already been a star. He was a can’t miss prospect, who need very little time in the minors before having plenty of 35 home run seasons in front of him. Baseball American ranked in the 12th best prospect in the game in 2009 and the eighth best in 2010, on the 20-80 scouting scale they ranked his power an 80. It should have been him hitting 36 home runs last year not second rounder Mike Stanton, it should have been him winning Rookie Of The Year award not Buster Posey, it should be him leading the the Pirates into the future not McCutchen.  But in the end perhaps Alvarez was not has can’t miss as everyone assumed, maybe he was rushed to the big leagues before he was ready because of his $6.4 million dollar Major League deal.  However, none of that really showed in his first trip to the big leagues in 2010, he finished with a solid rookie line of .256/.326/.461 along with 16 homers and 64 runs batted in in only 95 games. There was plenty of reasons to be optimistic about Alvarez coming into 2011 but that all washed away once the season actually began. Alvarez looked a little heavier – putting on a reported 15 pounds in the off season, looked a little slower and batted a lot worse finishing with a line of .191/.272/.289 with only four home runs and 19 runs batted in in 74 games.

It was a bad enough season that fans and media outlets were calling for Alvarez’ head, questioning if he was everything he was made out to be, wondering if he should be traded or even cut. It may be a little early for all that talk, he is still only 24 years old and is very much still in the Pirates plans. It’s also been reported that he is in much better shape after working out at the Boras Institute over the winter and showed up at a Pittsburgh mini-camp and had many talking about how he was using the whole field and getting away from the pull happy swings he was producing last year. It’s early but a motivated Pedro Alvarez could be a dangerous Pedro Alvarez and for Pittsburgh fans a lineup of Neil Walker, Andrew McCutchen, and Alvarez could bring something they haven’t seen in nearly 20 years, a winner.

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