By Kiley McDaniel
The first in Saber-Scouting’s series of prospect profiles will start out of order with our #2 draft prospect, much-ballyhooed Vanderbilt third baseman Pedro Alvarez.
Alvarez has been on the prospect radar since entering his senior year in high school in the Bronx at Horace Mann High. He was a 14th round pick by the Red Sox in the 2005 draft and was considered a 3rd-to-5th round prospect as a power hitting corner infielder with limited experience that most thought was bound for first base. His asking price with a Vanderbilt scholarship in hand was higher than teams wanted to offer and he went to school.
The rest is well-publicized, as Alvarez was one of the top hitters in college baseball in his freshman year, hitting .329 with 22 home runs and winning Baseball America’s Freshman of the Year award, along with being honored to BA’s All-American First Team. Also, due to his athleticism and work at the position, Alvarez’s defensive ability now allows most scouts to project him as a major league third baseman.
Alvarez is represented by super-agent Scott Boras (just a super-advisor for the draft’s purposes) and we’ve reported at Saber-Scouting that Boras has floated a $9.5 million big league deal asking price, while some insiders have been told the price is as high as $15 million.
Catch the rest of the in-depth Pedro Alvarez prospect profile after the jump…
(Alvarez photo credit: USA Baseball)
The real asking price was always more likely at the lower-end of that range, but even moreso now because of Alvarez’s mid-season broken hamate bone in his right hand.
A broken hamate bone is a somewhat common baseball injury, and Alvarez is now 100% recovered medically after over a month in rehab, but isn’t yet the hitter he was before the injury. There is very often a full recovery to previous form with hamate injuries, but it is difficult to know when the power and timing that aren’t there right now, will return.
These issues were particularly evident last weekend at the SEC Tournament where Alvarez was tentative and uncomfortable at the plate, particularly against left-handed pitching, en route to a 3-for-21 performance in the tournament.
Despite some concerns at the present moment, Pedro Alvarez has an impact bat with a great track record against elite pitching and with wood bats, an average or better defensive package at the hot corner, and great makeup, creating a rare package that teams will pay almost any price to get into their organization.
Pedro Alvarez Links
- BA Scouting Report (Baseball America - Subscription Required)
- MLB.com Scouting Report (with video) (MLB.com)
- Brewerfan.net Scouting Report (BrewerFan.net)
- Alvarez still in play for #1? (Jonathan Mayo’s Draft Blog)
- Baseball America Draft Tracker (Baseball America)
- Pirates Likely To Draft Alvarez (MLB Trade Rumors)
- Rumored Price for Boras Clients Surface (Saber-Scouting)
- Pirates Zero-In on First Round Pick (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)
College and HS Links
- 2008 Updated Vanderbilt Statistics (VU Commodores.com)
- Vanderbilt Site Profile (VU Commodores.com)
- Alvarez Injures Hand (Baseball America)
- 2008 Pre-Season All-Americans (Baseball America)
- Alvarez Wins BA’s Freshman of the Year (Baseball America)
- High School Showcase Profiles (Perfect Game)
- Pedro Alvarez Wikipedia Entry (Wikipedia)
Saber-Scouting Prospect Capsule
This is posted on the Draft Rankings page, but I thought I’d go ahead and post it here as well to get everything in the same place.
2. Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Vanderbilt
Bio: 6′2, 212, Bats L, Throws R, 21 years old
The Skinny: The consensus top prospect at the start of the year has shown an impact bat that makes scouts salivate, but they have been salivating less lately due to a mid-season hand injury sapping some of Alvarez’s power and hurting his timing. He’s hardly falling down draft boards with a special bat and a track record with wood bats to match, but a possible move to 1B and the $9.5 million demands advisor Scott Boras has floated could make teams pause. That being said, he’s got a special bat and won’t get out of the top 3.
Pros: Bat, Power, Track Record
Cons: Boras, Injury, Position
Comparison: Lefty-Hitting Aramis Ramirez
Adjusted OFP: 62
Pedro Alvarez Saber-Scouting Card
Click the box below for a clearer, enlarged version. We tried to fit a lot of good info into a slick presentation with the conventional tools grades as well.
Pedro Alvarez Statistical Breakdown
Click stat line for clearer, enlarged version. Click here for Vanderbilt’s updated 2008 stats.
A few notes about these statistics:
- I don’t have any detailed conference or draft prospect offensive averages to compare with, but Alvarez’s home field is a moderate pitcher’s park with a park factor of 90 (runs depressed by 10% from NCAA average). His batting averages and walk rates are strong for all five seasons listed (above .300 and 10% in the SEC is strong), but his junior season is expectedly the weakest of the bunch.
- As mentioned in the scouting report, the strikeout numbers are high for a top prospect. Many top prospects, even power hitters in big conferences like Miami’s Yonder Alonso and South Carolina’s Justin Smoak, have a good number more walks than strikeouts (Alonso and Smoak both have more than twice as many walks than strikeouts), and while Alvarez hasn’t been that guy, he has been close to even at times.
Why am I making anything of this one type of out that any sabermetric beginner knows is an overblown problem? Because with college hitters, it is widely known (I’m working on getting a formal, publishable proof for the site, but the proof is out there and multiple teams have it) by many teams and insiders that strikeouts is the strongest, and maybe only, college hitting stat that has a strong correlation to major league performance (or appearance). As you might guess, it strongly suggests stuggling to make contact. I don’t have detailed enough information to know what Alvarez’s specific profile normally projects as—I’d assume there aren’t many comparables.
While Alvarez’s K rate is high, almost alarmingly so for a top-5 pick, every other indicator is good to great, and it may just be a sign of his late-count hitting style, which racks up a number of three true outcomes (K, BB, HR). I’m cautious in projecting Alvarez given this information, but still bullish on him overall as a draft prospect; more things to like are coming up.
- The power numbers are clearly very strong, and also consistent; a very good indicator that almost all of Alvarez’s raw power is coming into play in game situations, or at least the same amount of the raw power has been in play his whole college career. There really isn’t a lot to see in Alvarez’s stats other than the K rate that are either notable relative to his scouting reports, or especially abnormal. That’s yet another thing that contributes to Alvarez’s high probabilty to be at least a good big league bat.
Here’s a YouTube video I posted recently of some clips from Alvarez’s Commodores versus South Carolina in the SEC Tournament last week. I put a nice defensive play on a bunt at the beginning to illustrate what I’ve seen and heard about Alvarez being able to stick at third base. What followa is a side view of Alvarez’s swing on a double to right field, shown at three different speeds.
A few notes about the video:
- The first play on the video, a defensive play on a bunt, is exactly the kind of play that scouts pay close attention to as far as projecting whether a player can stick at third base. Alvarez’s arm was clearly enough on this play, and his instincts, positioning, and quick feet allowed him to make this play, and will help him make comparable difficult plays. This is a little glimpse into the handful of plays the help form a scout’s opinion on grading a player’s defensive ability.
- The swing…wow, it’s just really good.
- Sorry, I just needed to make sure I emphasized that point.
Alvarez starts his swing with an effective set-up that allows him to make a full weight shift very quietly—he almost doesn’t move his head and hands at all.
I like that Alvarez only turns his front foot 45 degrees toward the pitcher. There is a fad among hitters these days of turning your your front foot 90 degrees, directly at the pitcher, as you plant the foot, usually with an awkward knee cock right before foot plant, used as a timing mechanism. I don’t like the added moving parts that creates, and also the torque that it takes away from the swing by opening up the bottom half too early. There is a right way to do this, and if it is what keeps your swing from falling apart, then go for it, but I don’t like this trend. Enough of my soapbox, back to Alvarez.
He spins effectively on his front foot with his weight shifted (but not overshifted like may power hitters, Eric Hosmer for one, tend to do), and has an outstanding, under-control weight shift. Watch his hands specifically in the slowed-down video. They don’t move until they absolutely have to; one executive I talked to said Alvarez starts his hands going forward later than anyone he’s ever seen.
Part of that is good instruction, reflexes, and trusting his hands, but that’s not possible without great bat speed and a bunch of quick-twitch fibers. Along with those late-starting hands, the front side (really, the whole top half of his body) doesn’t come open at all until his legs are screaming for some action on the top half, and then he explodes on the ball that he lets get deep in the zone.
You can see these hands steady late in the swing (compare to the ready to hit position the legs are in) in the two pictures to the right. The fuzzy one is a screen grab from the YouTube video, sorry about the quality.
Alvarez starts his hips late, but still ahead of his hands to create some torque (power), but not so much that he’s sacrificing contact ability. He’s essentially rotating the same distance every hitter goes, but by waiting so late, covers the same distance in less time, thus his rotation speed is higher and helps create more power. Alvarez also gets great extension without locking himself out or arm-barring, which combined with letting the ball get so deep and exploding on it in a controlled fashion…well that’s where the power comes from with a swing that doesn’t have a ton of loft in it.
The swing path itself is direct, thought not as direct as it could be, while also not having a loop in it—really just about perfect for a power hitter. Alvarez could tweak his swing to sell out for power and likely hit 40-50 HRs at the big league level at some point, but he’s chosen a more controlled swing with a .280 to .300 average and 30 HRs peak instead. There is some loft in the swing, and some torque, but lots of backspin, bat speed, and rotational force that conspire with a still head and lack of moving parts to make the perfect storm of big power and big contact ability.
This comparison of his HS swing and college swing shows that the mechanics haven’t really changed so much as the strength and ability to carry out those mechanics effectively has improved. Alvarez just has a very natural, efficient swing that bodes well for long-term projection, as long as he’s 100% medically.
The swing is very good and really reminds me of Albert Pujols, as the swing and overall package has reminded many of the Cardinals slugger. I don’t have a clip handy, but many of the same things I’m saying could be planted in a Pujols swing breakdown and not be out of place.
I’m hesitant to make this comparison as far as a projection for Alvarez because it’s unwise to project any amatuer to be that successful in the big leagues, no matter how good they are as amateurs. Also, Alvarez is currently struggling, so you have to assume he returns to pre-injury form, which is no cinch. Along with those two reasons, there isn’t much difference between a .290 to .300 hitter and .320 to .330 hitter. Scouting-wise, they look very similar, and in the short-term the difference is luck, but in the long-term small things like effectiveness versus same-side pitching and ability to make adjustments make up that difference, and those are things we just don’t know enough about right now. So I’ll stick with .280 to .300 with 25-35 HRs at his peak.
If you’re looking for a good idea of Pedro’s personality, some background, and a clearer (but overly zoomed-in) look at his swing, here’s a good feature from the CBS College Network:
And if you just want to see some guy yelling overrated and Pedro knocking a moonshot over everyone’s head while a road crowd goes nuts…then this video is for you.
Alvarez is still in contention for the #1 overall pick to Tampa Bay, but it is more of a rumor than confirmed fact, and appears that the combination of his asking price, the Rays organizational strength with corner hitters, and his less than stellar junior year will conspire to keep him out of the Rays plans.
He is coveted by the Pirates at #2, and if he isn’t chosen by Pittsburgh it will be due to financial considerations—if there’s a coinflip with two players on their draft board, they likely go with the cheaper option.
He will not get past the #3 pick with Kansas City, as he’s all but confirmed to be in their top 2 and the Royals will pay Boras’ asking price to steal that kind of talent at #3. Kansas City is also more familiar than most teams with Boras’ tactics as he represented the Royals first round holdout last year that eventually signed, California prep IF Mike Moustakas.
Projected Pick: #2 Pittsburgh Pirates
Projected Bonus: $9.0 million, big league deal