Alvarez creating buzz at Pirates Camp

By: Evan Anderholm
WEBN Sports
BRADENTON, FLA. – In recent years, young talent is something the Pittsburgh Pirates have emphasized within their organization. A long stretch of tough seasons has given the Pirates high draft picks and allowed the club to generate talent within their farm system. Last year was no exception. The emergence of All-Star outfielder Nate Mclouth and catcher Ryan Doumit, who led National League catchers with a .332 batting average as he became the team’s everyday backstop, have provided the Pirates with promising young talent.
This spring Pittsburgh welcomed its top draft pick in 2008, and the number two overall pick, Pedro Alvarez, to camp in Bradenton, Florida. Alvarez was named 2008 “Best Power Hitter” by Baseball America and raised hopes while playing in college with the Vanderbilt Commodores. In 2007, Alvarez batted .386 with 18 home runs and 68 RBI while being named first-team All-American. In his senior campaign, however, Alvarez suffered a broken bone in his right hand, cutting his production to nine home runs and only 30 RBI in 40 games.
It wasn’t clear if Alvarez would even sign with the Pirates after being drafted, but he ended up agreeing to a deal right at the deadline on August 15, 2008. The young infielder signed a 4-year, $6.3 million, contract and is extremely happy to be a Pirate. “It’s a very proud organization. They’re very passionate at what they do,” Alvarez said recently from spring training. “It’s definitely fun and a privilege to play for this organization. They’ve had some history of being really good and we’re trying to get up there again. The guys are all very accepting and welcoming. [They’re] great guys,” he said.
From the moment of the signing the Pirates front office has been excited about what Alvarez brings to the table; power, speed, defensive skills and the ability to be a superstar down the road. Trevor Gooby, Pittsburgh’s Senior Director of Florida Operations and a 1998 Emerson College graduate, said he should become the next Evan Longoria, a third baseman with tons of raw talent and power at the plate.
Alvarez is enjoying his first Pirates spring training at McKechnie Field. “It’s fun. I’m learning a lot from these guys,” he said after a recent spring training game. “Just getting the chance to be out here, playing with these guys, it’s a lot of fun. The weather is beautiful. It’s pretty cool.”
Even though Alvarez is one of the nation’s top prospects, he doesn’t seem bothered by the pressures of being in the big leagues and says a lot of the credit goes to the Pirates organization. “They do a good job of not letting you pay attention to any of that. When we’re out here it’s all about having fun and playing the game. When I’m out there, I’m enjoying my time and just playing hard,” he said.
At Vanderbilt, Alvarez suited up with current Tampa Bay Ray pitcher David Price. On March 16, the Rays roll into Bradenton to take on the Pirates and Alvarez only has positive things to say about the hard throwing lefty. “David Price is one of the biggest competitors I’ve ever seen in my life. He’s one of those guys that’s good at everything he does. Although he’s very competitive, he has a lot of fun out there. That’s why he’s so successful,” Alvarez said.
However, Alvarez admits, when he steps to the plate to face his former teammate, he’ll be ready. “If he throws me a couple good fastballs, I might take him deep,” Alvarez warned.
According to Athlon Sports 2009 Baseball Preview magazine, the Pirates see Alvarez as their starting third baseman by 2010. For now, Alvarez will get to show off, and fine tune, his skills during spring training and, once the season starts, in the minor leagues.