Paul McCartney’s Yesterday was voted to be the best pop song of all time by Rolling Stone. The line “Yesterday… love was such an easy game to play. Now I need a place to hide away. Oh, I believe in yesterday.” can be applied to baseball. There are dozens of guys that played the game with such ease one year, then fell flat on their face the next, and I would guess wish they were right back to where they were when things were going right. Using McCartney’s ballad as inspiration, we take a look at those guys and try to figure out what is in store next for them.
In 2008 the Pirates that the #2 pick overall in the June Amateur draft and used that pick on Pedro Alvarez. After a lost 2008 due to a contract dispute, Alvarez finally got on the field in 2009 and at 22 years old hit 27 HR’s and batted .288 across advanced A and AA. He didn’t slow down in 2010 and smacked 13 more HR in 66 AAA games, then got the call, and played 95 games with the Pirates. He hit 16 HR’s and batted .306 in Sept/Oct that year. A legend was born. The Pirates had their HR threat to drive in McCutchen and Walker.
We had high hopes for 2011. We dismissed his April avg. of .200 and 1 HR as a slow start. Then came one more HR and a .213 avg. in 11 May games. The remainder of the season he gave us 38 more games, 2 HR’s and a final triple slash line of .191/.272/.289. Oh 2010… Wherefore art thou?
This off season the Pirates are trying to light a fire under Alvarez to try and get him going. They traded for Casey McGehee (also of spectacular 2010 numbers fame) as insurance for Alvarez falling on his face again. The team asked him to go play winter ball in the Dominican, but he declined, instead choosing to train and get in better shape, working on agility and flexibility in Cali at Scott Boras’s workout facility. This doesn’t seem to bother the team too much, as they are impressed with at least his appearance over last season with GM Neil Hunntington saying “”He’s never going to model a swimsuit, but he looks strong, looks to be in good shape.”
So where does that leave us for 2012? Some say the 3B job is his to lose, others say he might not make the team out of spring. In either case, where there any positives to take away from last year? Despite striking out 20 times in 38 AB’s against lefties, he did cut down his % of K’s from the prior year, and he increased his line drive rate. Of course he also greatly increased ground balls at the cost of fly balls, and HF/FB rate dropped 7.3%. Of course a lot can be said for players slimming down and working on agility. Look at the resurgence of Pablo Sandoval as an example.
Alvarez was the number 2 overall pick for a reason. Not counting the 2010 and 2011 drafts, since the first player draft in 1965, only 4 players who were drafted 2nd over all never made it to the majors. Of the 41 players that have, 18 have posted a double digit WAR for their career. Joe Carter, who was the 2nd overall pick in 1981, had a career WAR of 16.5 for perspective. There is still time for Alvarez to turn things around, and judging from his off season conditioning, and the organization’s optimism, maybe this year he will.