As far as baseball careers go, few outside that of JD Drew have ever started as inauspicious as that of Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez.
Taken behind only Tim Beckham in the 2008 MLB Draft, Alvarez was thought to be a sure thing by major league scouts. That sentiment carried over into his negotiations with the Pirates, with the two parties agreeing to a deal just minutes before the deadline. Unfortunately, Alvarez did not sign the agreement until after the deadline had passed; causing the union to file a grievance and Alvarez would not officially sign until nearly a month later.
Alvarez would make his professional debut in 2009, and hit .288 with 27 home runs and 95 RBI across single and double-A, but he also struck out 129 times and committed 25 errors in just 314 chances. Alvarez’s bat would force his major league debut in 2010 and he cranked out another 16 home runs and drove in 64 with a respectable .256 average for his first 95 games in the majors.
Then the wheels fell of the momentum train.
Alvarez struggled mightily in 2011, batting just .191 with 4 home runs and 19 RBI while playing 74 games in Pittsburgh. The lackluster play forced the Pirates to demote him back to triple-A to finish the season. Things didn’t start out much better in 2012 either, as Alvarez stumbled out of the gate going just 2 for his first 31, with both hits being home runs and 15 strike-outs mixed in.
Still, the Pirates stuck behind their prospect despite his struggles and determined that they would let Alvarez play through them. A player sees that kind of commitment and he either rises to the occasion or he crumbles under the pressure and becomes the next sure thing turned bust.
Alvarez was determined not to be that guy.
Since going 0 for 3 against St. Louis on April 20th, Alvarez has been one of the hottest hitters in the game. Over the course of the last 11 games, Alvarez gone 16 for 40 at the plate, with 4 doubles, five home runs, 12 RBI, 10 runs scored. Quite simply put, it looks like Pedro Alvarez has turned the corner and may be finally realizing that vast potential.
It is a small sample, and Alvarez will have to continue to rake if he wants to shake the bust tag, but he has the tools to do. One knock will continue to be his defense, as he currently ranks dead last in fielding percentage at third base. Long-term, he may project better across the diamond at first base, but he is young enough to get at least another half-season to work this out before the Pirates are forced to move him.
Still, if Alvarez can continue to make the adjustments he’s shown over the last two weeks, the Pirates need not wait for that power prospect after all. He need only look at the player taken ahead of him to see the alternative.