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Pedro Alvarez

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Pedro Manuel Alvarez Jr.
(El Toro, El Matatan)

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[edit] Biographical Information

Pedro Alvarez was a top college prospect who was selected second overall in the 2008 amateur draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Alvarez was a good prospect out of high school, having set school records in batting average, homers, RBI, slugging percentage, walks and OBP. He was named the Gatorade High School Player of the Year for New York in 2005. Baseball America ranked him as the #97 high school prospect in the country. The Boston Red Sox took him in the 14th round of the 2005 amateur draft even though he was widely expected to go to Vanderbilt; as expected, Alvarez opted for college. The Red Sox had offered a signing bonus of almost $1 million.

Alvarez struggled in fall play at Vanderbilt, hitting just .170, and the team's players voted for him not to be a starter. Coach Tim Corbin decided otherwise and gave him the role; he started slowly, going 1 for 9 with 4 strikeouts and two errors. Pedro exploded and finished the season hitting .329/.456/.676 with 70 runs and 22 home runs and posting a .360 mark in Southeastern Conference games. He led all NCAA Division I third basemen in homers, tied Shawn Scobee for 6th in NCAA Division I in homers (two behind leader Kellen Kulbacki), set the Vanderbilt home run record and led all of NCAA Division I with 57 walks, one more than runner-up Matt Wieters. Alvarez was named to the Baseball America All-American team as the starting third baseman, the only freshman to make the first team; none made the second or third teams. Alvarez won the Baseball America Freshman of the Year Award as well and was named SEC Freshman of the Year and All-Conference third baseman. He had finished second in the Conference in homers, one shy of the lead. Additionally, Alvarez made the SEC Freshman Academic Honor Roll. He joined Team USA that summer and hit .382 to lead the team; he also led with 40 RBI, 3 more than J.P. Arencibia. Alvarez's 5 homers were second on the team to Arencibia. The team won Gold at the 2006 World University Championship.

In 2007, Alvarez continued to shine, hitting .386/.463/.684 with 18 home runs and 76 runs. He was third in the SEC in average, 16 points behind Matt LaPorta, and 4 homers behind SEC leader Justin Smoak. Alvarez led the SEC in both runs and hits (105). He made All-Conference at third base but LaPorta beat him otu for SEC Player of the Year honors. Alvarez was MVP of the SEC Tournament. He was 26th in NCAA Division I in slugging and again was chosen as a Baseball America first-team All-American at third base.

Pedro returned to Team USA for the summer of 2007. In the 2007 Pan American Games, he hit .300/~.333/.400 with 8 RBI in five games for the Silver Medal winners. Alvarez led the Games in RBI; most of his RBI came with a 5-RBI game against Nicaragua. Down 3-1 in the Gold Medal game with two outs, Alvarez singled off of Pedro Luis Lazo to bring up Smoak as the potential tying run but Smoak flew out to end the threat. Alvarez hit .233/.324/.567 in the 2007 World Port Tournament with three homers and 7 RBI in 8 games. He tied Alfredo Despaigne and Yosvani Peraza for second in home runs, one behind José Julio Ruíz, tied for 7th in runs (5), was third in RBI (trailing Despaigne and Peraza) and was 6th in slugging. Overall that summer, he hit .315 for Team USA, second on the team, and was also second in runs (23, trailing Jordan Danks) and doubles (9, one behind Smoak). He led the team in RBI with 30) and tied Roger Kieschnick for the home run lead with 7.

Alvarez suffered a broken hamate bone in his right hand in his junior year, limiting his production. He hit .317 with a .424 OBP and 9 homers in 40 games after his return to the lineup.

Scouted by Trevor Haley, Alvarez was picked second in the 2008 amateur draft, following Tim Beckham. Negotiations between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Scott Boras, Alvarez's adviser, went down to the final minute and then some. At 11:59 PM on August 15, the two sides came to a verbal agreement for a $6 million bonus plus the rest of Alvarez's tuition at college. When Alvarez did not show up in Pittsburgh for a physical or to sign his contract after a week and a half had gone by, Pittsburgh expressed frustration with Boras. On August 27, Alvarez was placed on the Restricted List by Major League Baseball for refusing to sign a contract he had agreed to. The Major League Baseball Players Association filed a grievance on Alvarez's behalf and the conflict went to arbitrator. Before a decision was made, the Pirates came to terms with Alvarez and the MLBPA dropped its grievance. Pedro signed a major league contract on September 24 for 4 years and $6,355,000.

Alvarez initially reported to the Pirates out of shape, a rare situation given the stories about his work ethic. He was in good condition by the start of Grapefruit League play, though, and did well in spring training. He began his professional career with the high-A Lynchburg Hillcats, debuting on April 9 against the Potomac Cannons and going 3 for 4 with a double and a home run. He was 0 for his next 18, though. Alvarez hit .247/.342/.486 in 66 games for Lynchburg, with 14 home runs, 55 RBI, 37 walks and 70 strikeouts. He was second in the 2009 Carolina League in homers (behind Cody Johnson), led in RBI (3 ahead of Lonnie Chisenhall) and was third in walks (10 behind leader Cord Phelps). He was then promoted to the Altoona Curve. With Altoona, he started slowly again but finished with a blast, ending with a batting line of .333/.419/.590 in 60 games. For the year, he hit 27 homers and 32 doubles, drove in 95, drew 71 walks and had hit .288/.378/.535. He fielded .920 overall at the hot corner. Most impressive was his impact on his teams - Lynchburg was 45-24 with him, 28-43 without him and Altoona was 34-26 with him, 28-54 without.

Alvarez then played third base for Team USA when they won the 2009 Baseball World Cup. He hit .240/.316/.560 in the event with five homers and 12 RBI. Only Justin Smoak hit more homers for the USA. He was 0 for 4 with two strikeouts in the Gold Medal game win over Cuba (the decision went to fellow Pirate farmhand Brad Lincoln). Pedro did make history on September 17 when he launched three long balls versus Taiwan to tie Antonio Muñoz, Luis Casanova, Sharnol Adriana and Jesús Cota for the Baseball World Cup record for home runs in a game. Alvarez failed to make the All-Tournament Team; the third baseman picked was Canada's Shawn Bowman, who had a similar OPS.

Alvarez hit 3 homers in his first two games at AAA.

Pedro made his Major League debut on June 16th, 2010. He started his career going 0 for 11, getting his first hit in his 4th game, a ground rule double. He became the first Pirate rookie ever to hit two or more homers in consecutive games on July 20 and July 21, including a grand slam. Alvarez became the first Buc of any kind to perform the feat since Jason Thompson back in the 1980s. He continued to make news in August. On August 7, he hit a 10th-inning, 3-run, 2-out walk-off home run off Huston Street for a 8-7 win over the Rockies. He also recorded a streak of seven straight games with a RBI, the longest run by a Pirate rookie since Frank Colman in the 1940s. He finished the year with a .256/.326/.461 batting line for a 116 OPS+; his 16 homers were the most ever by a Pirates rookie third baseman. His 17 errors tied Ryan Zimmerman and Casey McGehee for third-most among third basemen in the 2010 NL.

Alvarez missed much of 2011 with a right quad strain and played very poorly; he hit only .191/.272/.289 with 4 home runs for a 56 OPS+ and struck out in 80 of 235 AB. He fielded .935 at third base, defense also remaining a sore spot. His 14 errors tied Aramis Ramirez for 4th in the 2011 NL at third base and he had nearly as many errors as RBI (19). He also wound up playing 42 games in the minors, mostly in Indianapolis (.256/.365/.432 in 35 G).

Pedro was healthy again and did much better in 2012, producing at a .244/.317/.467 clip for a 115 OPS+. He socked 30 home runs and drove in 85. The negatives remained his strikeout rate (whiffing 180 times) and his glovework (27 errors). On August 19, he homered off Barret Browning in the 19th inning; no Pirate had ever homered in the 19th inning of a game or later. He hit 18 day-game home runs, the most by a Pirate since Willie Stargell in 1971. He finished among the 2012 NL leaders in dingers (tied for 10th with Corey Hart and Jason Kubel), strikeouts (2nd, 9 behind Danny Espinosa) and errors (tied for first in the league with Starlin Castro, 8 more than any other third baseman).

Alvarez started 2013 with a pitifully low average but continued power and better defense at the hot corner. By early July, though, his average was back in its traditional range and he was third in the 2013 NL in home runs. He was hitting .246/.307/.512 with 22 home runs and 57 RBI in 79 games. That earned him a selection to the 2013 All-Star Game. Despite ranking second in the NL in dingers at the time of the Game, he was originally left off the Home Run Derby by captain David Wright but got the call when Carlos Gonzalez backed out. Alvarez hit 6 home runs, just missing the cut for the second round, while batting against Rudy Pena. In the All-Star Game itself, he entered in the 8th as a defensive replacement in the NL's 3-0 loss. He came to bat in the bottom of the 9th with one on and two out against Joe Nathan; Pedro popped up to Jason Kipnis to end it. For the season, he finished at .233/.296/.473, his 116 OPS+ almost identical with 2012. He had 36 home runs, 100 RBI and 186 strikeouts for some gaudy numbers. He again made 27 errors but won a lot of praise from the media and team management for his improved range and his fielding percentage was better as well (.941, a 15 point improvement). He tied Paul Goldschmidt for the league home run lead (6 ahead of Jay Bruce), tied Adrian Gonzalez for 5th in RBI, led in strikeouts (one ahead of Bruce), tied Brandon Belt for 10th in extra-base hits (60), led in home run rate, led in errors (regardless of position) and led third basemen in assists (359, 50 more than #2 Nolan Arenado). For the league's home run king, he oddly finished the year as Pittsburgh's 6th hitter in the order, as Justin Morneau and Marlon Byrd became numbers 4 and 5 after being picked up in trades. He started the postseason red-hot. After going 0 for 3 with a RBI in the 2013 NL Wild Card Game, he homered off Adam Wainwright in Game 1 of the NLDS for the only Bucco run in a 9-1 loss. In Game 2, he doubled off Lance Lynn in the 2nd and scored Pittsburgh's first run on a Gerrit Cole hit. He hit a two-run homer off Lynn in the 3rd and Pittsburgh cruised to a win. He already had more postseason homers than Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla had combined in 33 playoff games for the Bucs in the 1990s. In Game 3, he came to bat with a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the 8th and two on against Kevin Siegrist. Having hit .180 against lefties in the regular-season (4th lowest in MLB), he faced a hurler who had only allowed a .118 regular-season average to lefties. Alvarez delivered, though, singling to right to score Josh Harrison with the winning run. His homer off Michael Wacha in the 8th inning of Game 4 was Pittsburgh's lone hit in a tough 2-1 loss. He singled in Morneau with the lone run in their Game 5 loss to Wainwright to finish the NLDS 6 for 17 with 16 total bases and 6 RBI. He did make history as the first player to drive in runs in his first six postseason games; only Nomar Garciaparra had done so in five.

Alvarez was involved in an unusual play on April 18, 2014. Martin Maldonado of the Milwaukee Brewers slashed a ground ball towards him in the 6th inning, the hit somehow managing to break the stitches on the baseball. Pedro was left to field a ball with a large piece of leather flapping away, and his throw barely fluttered to first base as even the slow-footed Maldonado had no trouble outrunning that dying quail. In early August, the Pirates decided to have Pedro begin taking infield practice at first base. They were concerned about his throwing problems, as he had already accumulated 22 throwing errors that year. The move would also allow the Pirates to play Josh Harrison, who was having a great season as a utility player, at third base, but would mean a decrease in playing time for Ike Davis and Gaby Sanchez, who had platooned at first base until then. He made his first start at first base on August 18th, then in his second on August 23rd, he homered twice off Wily Peralta of the Milwaukee Brewers, driving in 4 runs, to lead the Pirates to an important 10-2 win over the NL Central leaders. In early September, the Pirates announced that he had a stress fracture in his right foot; the injury had originally occurred when he dove for a ball at first base on August 26th. He sat out for a week before making a pinch-hitting appearance on September 5th, but the injury was not healing properly and he needed to rest it for four to six weeks, effectively ending his season. He ended the year with a .231 average, 18 homers and 56 RBI in 122 games.

[edit] Notable Achievements

  • NL All-Star (2013)
  • NL Silver Slugger Award Winner (2013)
  • NL Home Run Leader (2013)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 2 (2012 & 2013)
  • 30-Home Run Seasons: 2 (2012 & 2013)
  • 100-RBI Seasons: 1 (2013)

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