How long do you wait for a "can't miss" prospect to reach his potential? How long can a team afford to wait? Such questions will have to be answered by the Pittsburgh Pirates if Pedro Alvarez does not make progress as a player in the major leagues in 2012. Alvarez was one of the most anticipated prospects when he signed in 2008 with the Pirates as the second overall pick in that year's draft. The hype, no doubt, was heightened since Alvarez was a Scott Boras client making major league money right from the get go. After Alvarez showed a little hope in 2010, 2011 has left the promise a bit cold. Well, okay, a lot cold.
A bad hamstring didn't help Pedro Alvarez in 2011. He missed 71 games after injuring his right wheel. The original strain was in May and was re-aggravated in July. The injury could be used as a crutch to rescue some reputation after a 2011 season that saw him plummet to untold depths of poor play. But the facts are that Pedro Alvarez did manage to come to the plate 262 times in 2011 and finished with this donkey of a slash line: .191/.272/.289. That would be bad enough except his fielding was just as brutal.
How bad was the fielding? Alvarez made fourteen errors in just 66 games for a fielding percentage of .935. Otherwise, most fielding systems ranked him just below average in fielding efficiency. Even though his fielding efficiency rated better in 2011 than it did in 2010, there is something to be said for making the play once you get to the ball. Alvarez has now made 31 errors in his 160 major league games.
Despite his terrible and lost season, projection systems can't get past his minor league performances and are still somewhat bullish on the kind of season Alvarez will have in 2012. Bill James (found on Alvarez's Facebook page) has him projected at: .252/.332/.429. That's not great, but certainly better than last year. Baseball Prospectus has him at: .242/.319/.419 with a WARP of 2.0. That's highly bullish considering his WARP on that same site was -0.6 last season. ZiPS has him at: .245/.323/.447.
All of these projections assume that Pedro Alvarez will slightly increase his walk rate from its current major league 9.4 percent to over 10 percent where he was consistently in the minors. All the projections also assume that he will cut down his strikeout rate when both his seasons have seen that rate at over 30 percent. And they all predict he will hit with more power. That one is hard to dispute because his power numbers were decent in 2010.
The Pirates have Casey McGehee behind Alvarez if the prospect falters again in 2012. But McGehee cratered himself last season with the Brewers. In order for the Pirates to continue to improve like the steps they made last year, the team needs Pedro Alvarez to become the player they thought they drafted. The feeling here is that 2012 will be the make or break year for Alvarez. Alvarez needs to show some progression as a player. The odds certainly don't look good from this office chair.