On this day 12 years ago it was an exciting night both on and off the field for fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates. That day was 2008 MLB Draft night.
June 5, 2008, was a good night for Pittsburgh Pirates fans. That was the night the 2008 MLB Draft kicked off. This draft was one of the best for ex-general manager Neal Huntington, and was headlined by Pedro Alvarez who was the number two overall pick in the draft.
The 2007 draft was a disaster for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Under the guidance of then general manager Dave Littlefield, the Bucs passed on Matt Wieters with the number four pick in the draft to take Clemson left-handed pitcher Daniel Moskos. The main reason the Pirates took Moskos was because he would be easier to sign, and this made many fans leery heading into Huntington’s first draft. However, a lot of those concerns would be eased when the team drafted Alvarez.
Alvarez was never going to be easy to sign, especially being a client of super agent Scott Boras. In fact, the Pittsburgh Pirates almost failed to sign Alvarez. On August 15, 2008, just a few minutes before the deadline to sign draft picks, Alvarez and the Pirates agreed to a contract that included a $6 million signing bonus.
While Alvarez undoubtedly had holes in his game, especially defensively, he was still a major piece of the Pittsburgh Pirates puzzle in the 2010s. Playing for the Pirates from 2010 – 2015, he was a key cog on the three consecutive postseason teams in 2013 – 2015.
As a Pirate, Alvarez slashed .236/.309/.441 with a 106 wRC+. He slugged 131 home runs, with a 9.9% extra base hit rate. In these six seasons, he posted a 6.6 fWAR. These stats were despite a disastrous 2011 season in which he posted a -1.0 fWAR and a .191/.272/.289 slash line and a 58 wRC+ while bouncing between the MLB and the Triple-A level.
In 2013, Alvarez led the National League with 36 home runs, he was an All-Star, participated in the Home Run Derby, and took home the NL Silver Slugger Award for third base. This was his second consecutive 30 home run season. He hit 18 in an injury shortened 2014 season, and added 27 more in 2015. Without drafting Alvarez, the Pittsburgh Pirates would not have made the postseason each of those three seasons.
During the Pirates’ television broadcast that night long time play-by-play man Greg Brown commented on the pick after Alvarez was selected. He even referenced how drafting Alvarez despite the fact he would be difficult to sign was a pleasant change from past drafts. Brown would go on to call it a “great night” for the Pittsburgh Pirates and their fans.
It was also a great night for the Pirates on the field that night. Led by lefty Paul Maholm, the Pirates defeated the Houston Astros 4-3. Maholm allowed 3 runs, 2 earned, on 8 hits and no walks in 8 innings of work. After the win, the Pirates, who had suffered through 15 consecutive losing seasons, pulled close to .500 on the season at 29-31 with the win.
In addition to Alvarez, the Pirates added multiple other players that would be key cogs on those three postseason teams. Shortstop Jordy Mercer and reliever Justin Wilson were both drafted in this class. Additionally, outfielder Robbie Grossman, who helped them land starting pitcher Wandy Rodriguez via trade, was also taken in this draft. Infielders Matt Hague and Chase d’Arnaud would also reach the MLB level with the Bucs.
June 5, 2008, was a great night for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Not only did the team defeat a divisional rival on the field that night, they also bucked the trend of recent drafts and drafted a player that would become a key cog on three postseason teams. Here’s to hoping that next week’s draft also provides players that become key cogs on future postseason teams.