30 May 2008

Draft Preview -- Finding 1:4 (Pedro Alvarez)

Introducing Pedro Alvarez

2008 was to be the pinnacle of an incredible college career for the Vanderbilt standout. Unfortunately, a broken hamate bone suffered in the 'Dores opening series did its best to de-rail the pre-season player-of-the-year's junior campaign. Alvarez was among the top hitters in college baseball in each of the last two seasons, and has been impressive in two stints with Team USA. It's been odd, to say the least, to see him struggle (relative to his previous level of performance). With the likes of Justin Smoak, Gordon Beckham and Buster Posey enjoying elite offensive seasons, and Alvarez reportedly sticking to his pre-season signing bonus demands, teams will have a difficult decision between the top performers of this collegiate season and arguably the top offensive talent over the last two years. Should the Orioles be fortunate enough to be in such a position, what should they choose? Should Baltimore once again grab the Boras "bonus baby" if the opportunity presents itself?

The Numbers

Statistic (National Rank out of 500 Ranked)
Games/Games Started – 37/37
At Bats – 154
Hits – 48 (NR)
Doubles – 14 (480)
Triples – 1 (NR)
Homeruns – 9 (315)
Runs Batted In – 28 (NR)
Batting Average – .312 (Not Eligible)
On-Base Percentage – .429 (Not Eligible)
Slugging – .591 (Not Eligible)
Total Bases – 91 (NR)
Walks – 27 (482)
Strikeouts – 26 (NR)

Given his limited action, and the tendency for hamate injuries to sap power by weakening the wrist, Alvarez's numbers are not as far off from the likes of Smoak, Posey and Beckham as they appear. Averaged out over the course of a full season (and understanding this is not exact), Alvarez was on pace for around 22 2B, 15 HR, 2 3B, 45 RBI and 147 TB -- a more than respectable performance. When compared to his previous outputs, however, this line falls well short. To get an idea of how good Alvarez has been, let's look as his lines through his freshman and sophomore years, as well as his two stints with team USA (keeping in mind his age):

'06 (Vandy) .329/.454/.675, 240 AB, 15 2B, 22 HR, 64 RBI, 57 BB, 64 SO

'06 (USA) .379/.467/.647, 116 AB, 12 2B, 5 HR, 43 RBI, 19 BB, 21 SO

'07 (Vandy) .386/.468/.684, 272 AB, 21 2B, 18 HR, 68 RBI, 40 BB, 65 SO

'07 (USA) .315/.399/.551, 127 AB, 9 BB, 7 HR, 30 RBI, 18 BB, 29 SO

It's a shame we were deprived of what could have been an inspired offensive display in 2008. However, Baltimore may be the lucky beneficiary should teams determine that this year's questionable output is enough to deter them from throwing $7 million or so at Pedro.

The Frame

At 6’2” and 225 pounds Alvarez has a Major League body that sits comfortably on a solid and bottom-heavy frame. His thick trunk and torso are the source of his lightening-quick bat speed and immense power, though it is also a concern for those scouts that think he will eventually have to move off of third base. On any given collegiate field, Alvarez appears as a man playing among children -- he should have no trouble adjusting quickly to the physical rigours of professional ball or holding his own against players two or three years his senior.

Scouting: May 23, 2008 vs. South Carolina (Film)

Load – Alvarez's stance starts with high hands and a raised elbow. He utilizes his load to drop and lock his hands into position while turning his front hip in, building up an enormous amount of potential force. His elbow remains elevated, pointing the barrel towards the pitcher and potential making for a lengthy swing. He is right around a 60/40 weight distribution.

Stride – Beginning with a wide stance, Alvarez's stride itself is little more than a lifting and dropping of his lead leg (similar to Albert Pujols). This is all he needs to start his weight transfer and begin to release the energy he built in his load. His hips remain closed, helping to project the force of his swing to and through the ball.

Swing – The above video illustrates how much torque Pedro's trunk and torso can generate, resulting in incredible bat speed. Even with this huge release of force, Alvarez stays under control, driving to the ball on a consistent plane. He is clean and smooth from hips to elbow to knob to barrel. A slight uppercut makes elevating and driving the ball natural.

Contact – Alvarez makes consistent hard contact, demonstrating good balance and control. Like Posey, his bat speed allows him to let the ball get deeper before beginning his swing, making pitch identification a little easier and helping him to routinely square up on the ball. His hip rotation is close to perfect, and at contact you can draw a straight line from his helmet down through his knee. Every bit of force in his lower half is efficiently pushed to and through the ball, and his bat speed generates good backspin and loft.

Follow-Through – Alvarez remains under control, releasing up and easy with two hands. He doesn't fall-off, which is again impressive given the torque generated through his hips.

Swing Grade – A – The Vandy thirdbaseman has a Major League-ready swing right now. He can drive the ball from pole-to-pole and has the work-ethic to continue tweaking and perfecting his approach. After struggling through the first two games of the SEC tournament, rather than returning to the hotel with the team, Pedro headed out to a batting cage in Hoover for a 2-hour BP session with some local high school players. He will hit in the middle of a Major League lineup for many years.

Alvarez is a good athlete and profiles to be an adequate 3b/1b/RF/LF. Provided he doesn't add more thickness to his lower body, he should have no trouble sticking at the more valuable position -- 3B -- but his potential versatility should be a nice bonus for whichever team selects him. He has an adequate arm for 3B and charges the ball well.

Fielding Grade – B+

Is Alvarez Worthy of 1:4?
The idea of Alvarez and Wieters hitting in the middle of an Orioles lineup in the not-to-distant future is almost too good to be true. He has demonstrated leadership through words and example both with Vandy and Team USA, and already possesses a professional approach to his game. He should be the quickest to the Major Leagues out of any 2008 draftees and will be a force in short order. His price tag is not for the faint of heart, but whoever ponies up will be well rewarded.

Prospect Grade – A
Suggested Draft Slot – 1 to 3
1:4 Recommendation – Draft

Current Draft Board

1. Pedro Alvarez (3B) Vanderbilt University
2. Buster Posey (C) Florida State University
3. Justin Smoak (1B) University of South Carolina
4. Gordon Beckham (SS) University of Georgia

Draft Preview Schedule

6/1am Tim Beckham (SS) Griffin High School (Georgia)
6/1pm Brian Matusz (SP) University of San Diego
6/1pm Aaron Crow (SP) University of Missouri
6/2 Potential Targets for Rounds 2-3
6/3 Potential Targets for Rounds 4-5
6/4 Mail Bag and Final War-Room Review
6/5 Camden Depot Shadow Draft and Live Draft Coverage

Please feel free to contact us with any thoughts our questions -- we'd love to hear from you.

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