Pittsburgh Pirates: Is this Pedro Alvarez's Make or Break Year?

By Christopher Gamble


Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Pirates hoped they had found a sure-fire, can’t-miss prospect in third baseman Pedro Alvarez when they selected him second overall in the 2008 MLB Draft. The Pirates were extremely aggressive in pushing Alvarez to the Majors, and he made his MLB debut on June 16, 2010, at the age of 23.

Alvarez has always had a superior power tool, but his swing has been inconsistent as he chases pitches out of the zone on a fairly consistent basis and has extreme trouble with inside pitches. Last season Alvarez managed to drill 30 home runs and drive in 85, but hit .244/.317/.467 in 149 games while striking out 180 times.

Many are starting to consider Alvarez a bust. However, with just 318 games in three years under his belt, it might still be early to label Alvarez a complete bust. He is obviously not living up to the expectations of being the second overall pick, but he showed an ability to bounce back after a dreadful 2011 campaign that saw him hit just .191/.292/.289 with four homers and only 19 RBI across 74 games.

Alvarez’s 2012 season was, while still somewhat disappointing, at least a step in the right direction. The Pirates will need Alvarez to continue to progress this season if they have any hope of having their first winning season since 1992.

Alvarez’s development was rushed as he played only 66 games at the Triple-A level before earning his first call-up to the Majors. Prior to that he spent only 126 games between Single-A and Double-A. Perhaps, if the Pirates had taken a more measured approach, Alvarez would have had more time to work on the holes in his game before making his MLB debut and being forced to try and contribute right away.

Quite a few people believe this is Alvarez’s last chance to show he can be a major part of the Pirates’ future. The power is there but he will need to learn to be a little more selective at the plate if he hopes to truly make an impact.

If Alvarez doesn’t develop, the Pirates have nobody to blame but themselves. They wanted to rush him through the minors in the hopes of improving their Major League roster, hoping to team him with Andrew McCutchen as a sort of Barry BondsBobby Bonilla combination that had helped the Pirates make the playoffs in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The 2013 season might very well be a make or break year as far as Pedro Alvarez’s future with the Pittsburgh Pirates is concerned, but I might be one of the few who thinks he can still have a very productive career in baseball with the Pirates or elsewhere.

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