We continue our 2014 Pittsburgh Pirates Spring Training Preview by saying this: Pedro Alvarez is the most under appreciated slugger of all time. 2014 will be the year that Alvarez can put the exclamation mark on all of that bull about the Big Bull. It got tiresome over the years listening to people complain about his production at the big league level, his conditioning, and the meat on his bones while ignoring those lightning fast wrists.
Remember the Baseball America comments? Back in April of 2012, Jim Callis wrote:
Perhaps if Alvarez can get himself into better shape, he can reclaim the bat speed and hitting ability that made him the No. 2 choice just four years ago. If not, you could argue that he’s the biggest waste of hitting talent in draft history. None of the players mentioned above generated the same kind of glowing offensive scouting reports, and none signed for as much as Alvarez did.
Demoting Alvarez was a ridiculous idea because the Pirates had pushed the phenom through the minor league system as he bashed 40 bombs in 192 games. In 2013, Alvarez put some of the angst to rest with 36 homers to tie for the National League lead.
El Toro hit four homers in April, six in May, ten in June, seven in July, five in August, four in September. It didn’t end there either. Alvarez was a bright spot for a sputtering offense when he crushed three more bombs in the MLB Postseason–which we renamed PedroSeason.
We started to think about Alvarez reaching the milestone of 50 homers.
We headed over to Hit Tracker and started doing some work. The key to hitting homeruns is getting distance on the baseball and getting it in the air. El Toro drove balls to 311 feet, third in the game during 2013.
But the pride of the Bronx is not an extreme fly ball hitter, which attributed to him being Fangraphs MLB King of the Little Things in 2013, which is the one trait that might keep him from one day breaking the unofficial clean home run record of 61.
The 2013 Silver Slugger winner is in his prime. We don’t see the home run numbers decreasing, only increasing. As Fangraphs shows Alvarez has now produced batted ball distances of at least 307 feet and homerun/flyball rates of at least 25 percent in his last two seasons when he hit 30 and 36 bombs. All of them chronicled in photoshop delight for you here and here.
Of course some projections see regression for the 2014 season, but we can’t put our finger on why. Wouldn’t his disappointing production against southpaws the past two seasons improve? Even a slight bump toward the Mendoza line would help.
Couldn’t Alvarez continue to stretch out those insane hot streaks like he did last June and July when the OPS soared into four digits?
Wouldn’t the career flyball percentages continue to increase? Certainly someone is going to show Pedro that when he gets the ball in the air great things happen…like really great things! .777 average on liners..what? [Click to embiggen]
Of course there are no right or wrong answers when it comes to projections unless your name is Nate and you are predicting the Obama reelection, but very few projections seem to think Alvarez is capable of reaching the 40 homerun mark. We think he will reach 40. But why not 50?
Look, he’s been doubted by everyone. It was winter ball or nothing wrote Dejan Kovacevic in his Alvarez Needs To Fill His Promise article. Remember, J.J. Cooper Baseball America Scout’s View article? Yes, we digress, but it’s just more evidence that the 6’3″ 235 pounder is the most under appreciated slugger in his short career. I’m just glad we wrote this to combat Cooper’s post.
We wanted to see how Chris Davis took off to 53 homers. We studied and found this number jumping off the Fangraphs page. In 2012, Davis had a 37.5 FB% and jumped that number to 45.7% in 2013.
Alvarez increased his flyball percentage by just two points in 2013 and clubbed six more homers. If Alvarez makes a remotely similar jump in 2014 from his 36.4% number that he put up last year, 40 bombs will be in the rear view mirror.
The slugger that many people loved to hate, will be one of the most talked about players in the game.
Check out our other Spring Previews: Starling Marte Pirates Jekyll & Hyde Effect is here , Jordy Mercer Shorstop of Future is here and Neil Walker on our podcast here, while Tony Sanchez will be posted as soon as Cocktails feels strong.
P.S. Still need more evidence about #Pedro50?
Look at the near misses in National League Central ballparks. I count ten, and also saw a few more around the league too, so 36 last year could have easily been what…42? Watching Alvarez hit 50 in 2014 would be glorious, yeh, it would be a massive jump, but not out of the question. Fox Sports HR Chart
Fifty homers would drive his amazing wife crazy!