Help On Way For Bucs
The Pittsburgh Pirates have scored the sixth-fewest runs (388) and have the fourth-fewest hits (826), tied for fourth-worst slugging percentage (.358), tied for seventh-worst batting average (.244) and eighth-worst on-base percentage (.311) in the majors. The nine players who have hit second for Pittsburgh this year have a combined OBP of .285. Of the 15 players who have had at least 95 plate appearances on the Pirates this season, only Andrew McCutchen (.276) is hitting above .275. In total, the Pirates have scored only five more runs than they have allowed, but they still find themselves one game behind the St. Louis Cardinals for first place in the National League Central with a record of 53-48.
Because of their offensive ineptness besides McCutchen, many figure that Pittsburgh needs to trade for another bat to reinforce their lineup if they want to truly stay competitive in the NL Central race. However, the Pirates may find the answer to their offensive issues coming from their own farm system. Third baseman Pedro Alvarez, rated the eighth-best prospect by Baseball America before his rookie season in 2010, has been recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis after completing his rehab from a thigh injury. Alvarez is hitting just .207/.282/.296 with only six doubles, two home runs and 11 runs batted in in 38 games this year in Pittsburgh, but he is an extraordinarily talented player who may be able to regain his footing in the last two months of the season as the Pirates prepare for a pennant race.
Alvarez’s had a decent 2010 season. He batted .256/.326/.461 with 21 doubles, 16 homers and 64 RBIs in 95 games. However, lost in those total numbers is the maturity Alvarez began to show as a hitter towards the end of last season. In his final 28 games of the year, he hit .318/.362/.598 with 10 doubles, six home runs and 27 RBIs. The Pirates certainly expected more of that Pedro Alvarez at the plate going into the 2011 season.
Alvarez’s 2011 numbers thus far certainly show he has disappointed the Pittsburgh brass. Had he not been injured and forced to rehab in the minors, it was likely the Pirates would have sent him there anyway. However, in his 25-game rehab stint, Alvarez flashed his dazzling potential at the plate. He batted .325/.439/.538 with three doubles, four home runs and 15 RBIs. He seemed hungry to get healthy and prove to the Pirates front office that he was ready for another chance at the big leagues.
Granted, major league pitching is much more difficult to hit than what Alvarez saw in the major leagues. However, he absolutely crushed minor league pitching in his rehab assignment. Even including McCutchen, Alvarez is the most talented hitter on the Pittsburgh Pirates roster. He proved last year that he could get hot towards the end of the season. The Pirates may be searching for another bat to bolster their offense as they look to have both their first winning record and playoff appearance in 18 years. They may find all the help they need offensively from right under their nose in Pedro Alvarez.