Pedro Manuel Álvarez Jr.
(El Toro, El Matatan)
- Bats Left, Throws Right
- Height 6' 2", Weight 225 lb.
- School Vanderbilt University
- High School Horace Mann High School (New York)
- Debut June 16, 2010
- Final Game June 15, 2018
Pedro Álvarez was a top college prospect who was selected second overall in the 2008 amateur draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates and went on to win a NL home run title. He is the son-in-law of Pat Murphy.
Álvarez 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 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, Álvarez opted for college. The Red Sox had offered a signing bonus of almost $1 million.
Álvarez 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. Álvarez 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. Álvarez 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 finished second in the Conference in homers, one shy of the lead. Additionally, Álvarez 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. Álvarez's 5 homers were second on the team to Arencibia. The team won Gold at the 2006 World University Championship.
In 2007, Álvarez continued to shine, hitting .386/.463/.684 with 18 home runs and 76 runs scored. He led the SEC in runs scored and hits (105), finished third in the SEC in average, 16 points behind Matt LaPorta, and 4 homers behind SEC leader Justin Smoak. He made All-Conference at third base but LaPorta beat him for SEC Player of the Year honors. Álvarez was MVP of the SEC Tournament, finishing 26th in NCAA Division I in slugging and again was chosen as Baseball America's first-team All-American at third base. Pedro returned to Team USA that summer. In the 2007 Pan American Games, he hit .300/~.333/.400 with 8 RBI in five games for the Silver Medal winners. Álvarez 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, Álvarez singled off of Pedro Luis Lazo to bring up Smoak as the potential tying run but Smoak flew out to end the threat. Pedro 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 scored (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.
Álvarez 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, he was picked second in the 2008 amateur draft, following Tim Beckham. Negotiations between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Scott Boras, Álvarez'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 Álvarez's tuition at college. When Álvarez 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, Pedro 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 his behalf and the conflict went to an arbitrator. Before a decision was made, the Pirates came to terms with Álvarez and the MLBPA dropped its grievance. Pedro signed a major league contract on September 24 for 4 years and $6,355,000.
Álvarez 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. Álvarez 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 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.
Álvarez 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. He failed to make the All-Tournament Team; the third baseman picked was Canada's Shawn Bowman, who had a similar OPS.
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. Álvarez 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 an 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 an 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.
Álvarez 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 at bats. 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 games). 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 glove work (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).
Álvarez started 2013 with a pitifully low average but continued power and better defense at the hot corner. By early July, 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 out of the Home Run Derby by captain David Wright but got the call when Carlos Gonzalez backed out. Álvarez hit 6 home runs, just missing the cut for the second round, while batting against Rudy Pena. In the All-Star Game, 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. Álvarez 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.
Álvarez 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, ending his season. He ended the year with a .231 average (.312 OBP, .405 SLG, only 101 OPS+), 18 homers and 56 RBI in 122 games. He led all NL players in errors despite missing significant time.
Álvarez was Pittsburgh's primary first baseman in 2015, but was often spelled late in games by defensive sub Sean Rodriguez and sat occasionally against lefties in favor of Corey Hart (early in the year) and Michael Morse (later in the year). On May 19th, he became just the third player to hit a ball clean out of PNC Park into the Allegheny River; his home run to right field off Ricky Nolasco of the Minnesota Twins traveled an estimated 461 feet and landed into a boat docked on the river. He rebounded offensively, putting up numbers similar to 2012-2013 (.243/.318/.469, 27 HR, 77 RBI, 114 OPS+). He tied Lucas Duda, Khris Davis and Giancarlo Stanton for 10th in the 2015 NL in dingers and was 4th in home run ratio. The problem remained defense. He made 23 errors - no other first baseman in the NL had more than 9. He made the most errors by a NL first baseman since Kevin Young had 23 also, back with the 1999 Pirates; Young, though, played 155 games at first base and fielded .985 to Álvarez's 124 and .978. Only two players regardless of position in the NL had more errors - Ian Desmond and Castro - a highly unusual finish for a first baseman. In a move designed to improve the team's defense, he did not start the 2015 NL Wild Card Game against the Chicago Cubs, sitting down in favor of Rodriguez until it was time for Rodriguez's first plate appearance, at which time he pinch-hit for him and stayed in the game, fanning three times against Jake Arrieta.
Given his defensive woes and pending arbitration, Pittsburgh tried peddling Álvarez without success, then non-tendered him, making him a free agent, an odd situation for a player who had just won the NL home run crown two years prior. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Ron Cook called Álvarez "this town’s most maligned athlete since [former Steelers quarterback] Kordell Stewart". Unlike the last Pirate to see such venom, Bonds, Álvarez was not noted as a jerk, but rarely displayed emotion on the field, which combined with the errors and strikeouts made him a target of anger. He had been noted as a player who put considerable effort into his game off the field, but this was not seen by fans. Given his glove work at both third and first, it was most likely an AL team would be interested, penciling him as a future designated hitter. He finally found a team on March 8, 2016, when the Baltimore Orioles offered him a one-year contract for a reported $5.75 million, less than the $8 million he was projected for under arbitration had Pittsburgh retained his rights. This came a week after the Orioles thought they had signed Dexter Fowler, only to see him take less money to return to the Chicago Cubs, leaving a hole in their projected starting lineup. He played 109 games for the Birds, hitting .249 with 22 homers and 49 RBI while playing mainly as the designated hitter. The Orioles made it to the Wild Card Game, but Alvarez did not play in the contest. In 2017, he re-signed with Baltimore, but spent most of the season in the minors. He played 138 games for the Norfolk Tides and hit .239 with 31 doubles, 26 homers and 89 RBI, rather typical numbers for him, albeit at a lower level. He was called up to the Orioles in September and proceeded to do well in limited playing time, with a .313 average, 1 homer and 4 RBI in 14 games.
In 2018, he signed another one-year minor league contract with the Orioles and was again expected to be mainly an insurance policy in case of injury to Chris Davis or Mark Trumbo. He made the team out of spring training, and on April 6th, he gave the Orioles a big win over the New York Yankees with a grand slam in the 14th inning off Jonathan Holder, a walk-off shot in a 7-3 win. By June, with his slash line sitting at .180/.283/.414, he was designated for assignment and became a free agent at season's end. He signed a minor league deal with the Miami Marlins for 2019, but opted out prior to spring training's end.
- NL All-Star (2013)
- NL Silver Slugger Award Winner (2013)
- NL Home Run Leader (2013)
- 20-Home Run Seasons: 4 (2012, 2013, 2015 & 2016)
- 30-Home Run Seasons: 2 (2012 & 2013)
- 100-RBI Seasons: 1 (2013)
- 2007-2008 Baseball Almanacs
- Vanderbilt bio
- Baseballdecuba.com (for Pan Am Games stats)
- 2007 World Port Tournament statistics
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
- 2013 Pirates Media Guide