Alvarez up, Lawrie on the mend

Remember when you drafted Pedro Alvarez for the potential of 25-plus homers at the hot corner? Yeah, um, not so much. Alvarez struggled mightily at the start of his 2011 campaign, hitting only .208/.283/.304 with two home runs in 36 games. Then, a quad injury knocked him out of action, putting his frustrating start on the DL to fester. Now healthy, Alvarez is set to return to Pittsburgh after a 17 game stint at Triple-A in which he hit .350/.444/.550 with three home runs in 72 plate appearances. Is he ready to finally provide at least some of the fantasy value thought to be had on draft day?

One thing is for certain when it comes to Pedro Alvarez’s game: He has plenty of power. In his first crack at consistent big league action in 2010, Alvarez averaged one home run every 21.7 at bats, which would translate to about 25 homers over 550 at-bats. That number was supposed to improve this season based on a minor league AB/HR rate of about 17.9 percent and a career minor league SLG of .535.

If you’re looking for Alvarez to show up and hit a bunch of home runs in just over two months, you might not be completely crazy. Last season, Alvarez hit seven home runs in July and six homers in September, so he’s clearly capable of hitting em in bunches. If he can carry his hot bat from Indianapolis to Pittsburgh (well, technically Atlanta, where the Pirates are tonight), then we could certainly see him pop a few balls out of the yard in a small amount of at-bats.

The issue will be his strikeout rate, which has been over 30 percent as a major leaguer. In 524 major league plate appearances, Alvarez has a whiff rate of just about 30 percent, which puts him in the same realm of Carlos Pena, Adam Dunn, Ryan Howard and Nelson Cruz. In a way, it’s good to be lumped into that group, as all are major power hitters, but all carry a ton of risk in their AVG.

The bottom line when it comes to Alvarez is pick him up if you need a 3B or a boost in power and can take a small hit in AVG. There have been whispers that he won’t play everyday, but, really? Are Brandon Wood (.274 wOBA) and Chase d’Arnaud (.257 wOBA) roadblocks? If so, the Pirates need to take a serious long look in the mirror.

Speaking of potential help from the minors, remember that Brett Lawrie guy? He’s on the mend and hitting well at triple-A since coming back from a wrist injury. Since returning to the Las Vegas 51′s, Lawrie has four extra base hits in seven games (2 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR), which at least gives us some hope that his injury won’t affect his power production too much. Overall, Lawrie now has 16 homers and 12 steals in 63 games.

The problem now becomes, where does he play? E5/DH is hitting .275 with six home runs since June 1st and Jose Bautista has seen much more action at the hot corner. Other young Jays, Travis Snider and Eric Thames, are both swinging the bat well, so there doesn’t seem like a need to give Lawrie a shot at the moment.

My best guess is that Lawrie sees some time in the show by mid-August or September at the latest, but we’ll have to re-evaluate his chances of playing time then. Here is what I wrote about Lawrie on June 1st.