Pedro Alvarez: Should Colorado Rockies Sign 1B?


Pedro Alvarez, recently non-tendered by the Pirates, just hit free agency, so should the Colorado Rockies pursue the powerful, left-handed first baseman?

The Pittsburg Pirates drafted Pedro Alvarez in the first round (second overall) of the 2008 MLB Amateur Draft out of Vanderbilt University. While in college, Pedro Alvarez’s power was off the charts, vaulting his draft value to the first round. Pedro Alvarez spent the first two seasons of his professional career in the Pirates’ farm system, quickly rising from High-A to Triple-A. During the 2009 season, Pedro Alvarez made the jump from High-A to Double-A. While at Double-A, Alvarez posted a .333/.419/.590 slash line, and more impressively, he registered a 176 wRC+ (weighted runs created).

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With Pedro Alvarez’s stellar 2009 season, the Pittsburg Pirates decided to promote their talented third baseman to Triple-A to begin the 2010 season. After hitting 27 home runs and driving in 95 RBI in 2009, Pedro Alvarez continued the torrid start to his professional campaign. Alvarez played 66 games at Triple-A, hitting .277 with 13 home runs and 53 RBI; also, he posted a 139 wRC+, showing his readiness for the MLB. The Pirates believed Pedro Alvarez demonstrated the necessary tools to earn him a promotion to the MLB; thus, in June of 2010, Alvarez made his MLB debut with the Pirates, sticking with the team for the remainder of the season.

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In 95 games with the Pirates, Pedro Alvarez hit 16 home runs and recorded 64 RBI, flashing his advanced bat that made him a first round selection. Alvarez finished the 2010 season, as a member of the Pirates, with a .256/.326/.461 slash-line, 1.8 WAR (wins above replacement), and 114 wRC+. Alvarez started the 2011 season back with the Pirates, but he did not demonstrate the same offensive prowess from 2010. Through the first 36 games, Pedro Alvarez hit just .208, and he landed on the DL in May of 2011. After completing his stint on the 15-day DL, the Pirates decided to demote Alvarez to Triple-A, where he spent 35 games. While at Triple-A, Alvarez posted a career-best walk rate (BB%) of 14.9.

The Pirates recalled Pedro Alvarez near the end of the 2011 season, but he continued to struggle against Major League pitching. After an impressive 2010 rookie season, Alvarez regressed in nearly every aspect, posting an unimpressive .191/.272/.289 slash line, ISO (isolated power) of .098, and 58 wRC+, illustrating his struggles at the plate. Also, he posted a career-low WAR of -1.0; however, the Pirates still believed in their young third baseman. In 2012, Pedro Alvarez rebounded from his down season, and he showcased his highly touted power.

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For the first time in his MLB career, the Pirates decided to make Pedro Alvarez an everyday third baseman, and he played in 149 games. Alvarez owned a .244/.317/.467 slash line and posted his first career 30 home run season. Moreover, he dramatically improved his wRC+ from 2011 to 2012, improving from 58 to 112. Despite his statistical improvements at the plate, he registered a career-worst strike out rate (K%) of 30.7, and this is the continued flaw to Pedro Alvarez’s game. Although Alvarez struck out a ton in 2012, he managed to own a 2.2 WAR.

Following the 2012 season, Pedro Alvarez put together the best season of his professional career, winning the Silver Slugger Award among National League third baseman. Also, he earned his first career All-Star selection, illustrating Alvarez’s impressive season. In 2013, Pedro Alvarez registered career-highs in both home runs (36) and RBI (100). Despite his statistical strides, Alvarez posted a career-low walk rate of 7.8 and had a second-straight season of a strikeout rate over 30 percent. Alvarez managed to play in a career-high 152 games, earning a career-high 3.0 WAR, and he also showed improvements defensively.

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  • Pedro Alvarez improved his walk rate and strikeout rate in 2014, registering a 10.1 BB% and 25.4 K%, respectively. He finished the season with a .231/.312/.405 slash line, 0.0 WAR, and 103 wRC+. Also, Alvarez registered 18 home runs and 56 RBI, with eight stolen bases. After a so-so 2014 season, Pedro Alvarez improved across the board, playing in 150 games, hitting 27 home runs with 77 RBI in 2015. Moreover, he finished with a .243/.318/.469 slash line, but the downside to his game, outside of his high strikeout percentage, was his poor glove at the corner infield positions. The Pirates toyed around with Alvarez at both corner infield spots, giving him time at third base and first base in efforts to keep his bat in the lineup.

    However, following the 2015 season, the Pirates decided to non-tender Pedro Alvarez, due to their surplus of capable infielders on the roster. With Alvarez hitting free agency, he becomes one of the most powerful bats on the market (in addition to Chris Davis). The Colorado Rockies are highly unlikely to sign Chris Davis, due to his inflated value and age, but Pedro Alvarez offers a “poor man” alternative to Davis. The Colorado Rockies desperately need a first baseman for the 2016 season, because they cannot rely on Ben Paulsen to shoulder the load for the duration of the season. With Coors Field being a hitter’s paradise, Pedro Alvarez might find unprecedented (in his career) success at first base.

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    The Colorado Rockies have Nolan Arenado at third base, and they have no intentions of giving him up. Thus, Pedro Alvarez would make the switch to permanently play first base. The downfall to relying on Alvarez at first base is that his defense is pretty poor, and he struggles to pick the ball on low throws, hurting the other infielder’s fielding percentage. With the Colorado Rockies’ pitching staff a work-in-progress for next season, the Rockies might utilize the strategy of outhitting opponents, similar to the Blue Jays’ style; however, the Jays possess a much more prolific pitching staff than the Rockies. The Colorado Rockies need to find a solid first baseman, but it might not be a bad idea to pursue an offensive-first first baseman.