Over the weekend, Pirates' GM Neal Huntington confirmed that Pedro Alvarez would be joining the team in Pittsburgh to start the season, instead of being demoted to AAA Indianapolis. The news was somewhat surprising given Alvarez's lack of success -more importantly at the plate- over the past year.

After a stellar rookie campaign in 2010 when he hit .256/.326/.461including 16 home runs, Alvarez took a giant step backward in his sophomore season. By the middle of the season Pedro was designated to AAA and sustain minor injuries along the way. His final line in 2011 was .191/.272/.289 with just 4 home runs and 80 strikeouts in 235 at-bats.

After deciding not to play winter ball, despite his club's suggestion, Alvarez worked out with "super agent", Scott Boras. When fans saw him at Pirates' Fest over the winter, Alvarez looked a lot thinner and in much better shape, overall. That, alone, caused fans to believe he would have a bounce back season.

While another big step forward is still in the cards for Pedro Alvarez this season, his horrible performance in spring training suggests more of the same from 2011. In 14 games in the Grapefruit League, Alvarez is hitting .133/.156/.333. Even more alarming is the high number of strikeouts (15) in just 33 at bats. Yes, it is spring training. And yes, the averages, ERAs, OBPs, and OPSs in March do not necessarily set a preview for the six months of real season. But striking out in nearly half as many at-bats is still alarming. It is one thing to have a low average due to at 'em balls, bad luck, or barely mistiming pitches; but to consistently go up to the plate and get overpowered is disturbing.

Neal Huntington believes a lot of Alvarez's struggles have to do with his knee, which suddenly tweaked last week during a game. Maybe he's right. After all, he's been around Pedro from the start. At the same time, what evidence has Pedro Alvarez shown that he deserves to play on April 5th? Has he shown the ability to take an outside pitch the other way, something that has been a weakness since he turned pro? Has he shown the ability to turn on an inside fastball? Has he done these things consistently enough to prove that a breakout is right around the corner? Based on his numbers and from what we can observe on TV the answer is no.

Therefore, send Alvarez to Indianapolis and work through his struggles there. He added a new toe-tap as a timing mechanism in the offseason. Rather than sending him to Pittsburgh to face Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels in the opening series of the season, let Alvarez work on his new swing and get comfortable. A demotion should not be seen as punishment but rather an opportunity to get better and gain confidence.

Pittsburgh Pirates' fans are growing restless with Pedro Alvarez. The stunt his agent pulled during contract negotiations following his draft already put him in a negative light. At this point, Pirates' fans are almost waiting for him to fail so they can cast him off with previous first round picks who failed to pan out. While that behavior, in my book, is completely unjustifiable and idiotic, it still won't erase the high probability that Pedro Alvarez will get booed if he fails to produce at the beginning of the season.

Send Pedro Alvarez to AAA. Let him get comfortable with his approach to the plate before he stands in the box against some of the elite pitchers in the league.

Posted in Pittsburgh Pirates

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