Will Pirates Pedro Alvarez Go The Way Of Justin Upton Someday?


A lot was made aboutthe fallout from the Arizona Diamondbacks trading Justin Upton to the Braves in a seven player deal late last week.  We couldn’t help but speculate on the future of Pedro Alvarez as the terms ‘gritty’ and ‘scrappy’ started being thrown around after the trade.

Upton followed up a 3.0 WAR in 2010 with a 6.4 in a big 2011.  He reduced his strikeout rate by nearly eight percent.  But then as constant trade rumors swirled, the five-tool player had a disappointing follow up season with a 2.5 WAR.

Alvarez isn’t a five-tool outfielder, but I can’t help think about what may come in the future.  In 2011, El Toro was bad–a  negative .7 WAR that felt like it could have been negative seventy.  The Pirates third baseman then came out colder than witches tits with a painstakingly slow start to his 2012 season.

But an explosion in Cleveland ignited Alvarez’s season and he went on to post career highs in numerous offensive categories and finished with 2.9 WAR  in 2012.  In the three true outcomes, Alvarez posted 30 homers-57 walks-180 strikeouts TTO line in 586 plate appearances.

So Pedro took the defense out of the picture in about 31 perent of his PA last season.   Upton did that to the tune of nearly 27 percent before his breakout season in 2011.

But it’s what happens after the strikeouts that makes me curious. Watch the video below of Alvarez striking out against R.A. Dickey.

After a whiff, Petey throws his bat, or reacts in a visibly outraged manner about, what—maybe one percent of the time?    It’s something the Big Bull simply doesn’t do.  He mentioned to me once that he will never give the pitcher the satisfaction of such an outburst.  Some Pirates fans don’t care for how Alvarez reacted after those 379 strikeouts in his first 1234 plate appearances.

Upton struckout 295 times in his first 1157 career plate appearances.   Both Alvarez and Upton are special players that play the game their own way.  It’s not a secret that Alvarez, who is represented by Scott Boras, is well-liked by his teammates.  El Toro is a passionate guy who has little interest in public attention.

But when it comes to perception, Alvarez is polarizing.

Call it misunderstood.

We call it ignorance because we were there when Alvarez made his debut at PNC Park.

Alvarez whiffed in his first big leage at-bat.

It was an ugly night.  Fans one section over from us, and several scattered throughout PNC, let the rookie have it.    Each of them, dressed in varying degreees of black and gold, spit venom at Alvarez which should have been directed at any of the overpaid Pirates veterans on that awful club, not a first round pick facing major league pitching for the first time in his life.   It hasn’t changed much since.

We believe the reality of the Upton trade was simple.

The Diamondbacks were attempting to move Upton since that monster 2011 season.  It wasn’t about identity, grit, suave, wall crashing or any of that garbage.  It was about maximizing the return on their investment.  The Snakes weren’t going to sign Upton to a new contract.  They needed to cash in.  But it’s hard for us to see how the Snakes got significantly better this offseason despite giving up some serious talent.

So will the Pirates cash in on Alvarez one day in the future, or do you see Bob Nutting ponying up a new contract?  It should be interesting to watch unfold.

It will be awhile, but don’t be surprised one day if the whispers start surfacing.  Maybe it will be about a reaction to that much discussed move to first base, or if the strikeouts remain over 25 percent–some will talk about his mannerisms.

All those scenarios seem more likely than Alvarez getting some new contract from the Pirates.   The Upton Model sets the template.