By John Perrotto
Pedro Alvarez batted .247 and struck out 70 times in 66 games at high Class A Lynchburg, numbers that suggest the Pirates’ most heralded hitting prospect since Barry Bonds is not quite ready to face Class AA pitching.
While the Pirates are as statistically aware as any organization in baseball, that did not stop them from promoting the left-handed hitting third baseman to Class AA Altoona.
He will make his Eastern League debut tonight when the Curve visits Erie.
“Some of the more traditional numbers like batting average may not look good but he showed the ability to hit the ball out of the park and take a walk, particularly after he got adjusted to playing professional baseball for the first time,” Pirates player development director Kyle Stark said. “This is step up for him. There are a lot of good players in the Carolina League but now he’ll be seeing more good players in the Eastern League. We think he is ready.”
Alvarez hit 14 home runs, drove in a Carolina League-leading 55 runs and drew 37 walks to give him a .342 on base percentage and a .486 slugging percentage.
The Pirates also feel Alvarez’s batting average was low and his strikeouts were high because he faced a lot of pitchers in the Carolina League who refused to challenge him. Alvarez confirmed that was the case.
“I got a lot of 2-0 sliders and 3-1 changeups, I never seemed to get fastballs,” he said. “I think I’ve learned to be a lot more patient this year. That has definitely been the biggest adjustment since college and I feel I’m making it.”
Alvarez was the Pirates’ first-round draft pick last year from Vanderbilt and the No. 2 overall selection but signed too late to play following protracted negotiations that resulted in him getting a four-year major-league contract worth $6,335,000.
He admits the long period of inactivity between his last college game with the Commodores in the NCAA tournament last May and his first regular-season game with Lynchburg in April contributed to a slow start.
“It took a while to get back into baseball shape but I feel good now,” Alvarez said. “I feel like I’ve found a good routine that I can follow on a day-to-day basis that keeps me sharp and ready to play. Now, I’m (in Class AA) and I’m excited for a new challenge. It’s going to be different but it’s going to be fun.”
Alvarez is one of a number of players in the Pirates’ farm system to be promoted in the past few days.
Right-hander Brad Lincoln moved up to Class AAA Indianapolis from Altoona and will make his International League debut Wednesday night at Lehigh Valley.
Joining Alvarez in making the move to Altoona from Lynchburg are right-handed relievers Mike Dubee and Dustin Molleken and outfielder/first baseman Miles Durham.
Shortstop Chase D’Arnaud was bumped to Lynchburg from low Class A West Virginia. D’Arnaud will split time between shortstop and second baseman for the Hillcats while Jordy Mercer, who had been playing shortstop, will also begin getting some starts at third base.