11 May 2017

Pedro Alvarez - A Pleasant Surprise in Right Field

Joe Reisel's Archives

When the Orioles had announced that they had re-signed free agent Pedro Alvarez to a minor-league contract, and that they were sending him to Norfolk with the intention of converting him to an outfielder, those of us who pay attention to the Norfolk Tides baseball games were dismayed. Last season, we were treated to the experiment of Christian Walker trying to play left field, and it wasn't pretty. And we had less reason to be optimistic about Pedro Alvarez' playing the outfield. Walker, at least, had been a competent first baseman; Alvarez has widely been regarded as a butcher both at third base and at first base. Walker was reasonably athletic-looking; Alvarez has a body reminiscent of Prince Fielder. There wasn't any reason to think that Pedro Alvarez would be anything less than a train wreck in right field.

It's been a month, and I've had plenty of opportunities to see Alvarez play. He's been playing right field, which is a reasonable plan. As a former third baseman, he's got at least a fairly good throwing arm, and right field in Harbor Park is the smaller of the corner fields because of a party deck jutting into the field from the right-field corner. I've seen Alvarez play eleven games in right field; a total of 100 defensive innings (one seven-inning doubleheader game and one twelve-inning game.) And he hasn't been terrible.

Actually, he's been quite a bit better than terrible. In these 100 innings, he has fielded 43 batted balls. (There's also been one home run hit onto the right-field party deck roof, but one can't expect any right fielder to field that.) Of those 43, five were ground balls through the infield and all five went for singles. Again, it's not reasonable for us to expect a right fielder to turn those ground balls into 9-3 putouts. Three of those ground ball singles occurred with no one on base; it is true that on the other two, a runner on first went to third.. However, in each case the single occurred with two outs and a very fast Syracuse Chief on first base - Rafael Bautista and Brian Goodwin. I think we can cut Alvarez some slack for not holding those runners to second base in those conditions.

Twenty-four of those batted balls were, in my judgment, fly balls (as opposed to line drives.) Alvarez was able to catch twenty-two of them for outs. Alvarez doesn't always look elegant and he doesn't run the best routes, but he has more range than I thought he would and he covers enough ground. One of the balls that fell in was hit down the right-field line and went for a double; it's possible although far from certain that the ball "should" have been caught. The other was a pop fly that fell into no-man's land between the first baseman, the second baseman, and Alvarez - and Alvarez was able to recover and force a runner out at second base. And after catching one of the other fly balls Alvarez was able to double a runner off second base.

That leaves fourteen line drives. Every one of those batted balls went for a hit; eleven for singles and three for doubles. I classified four of those line drives as "hard"; essentially, if they weren't hit right at the fielder they'd go for hits. Another one I classified as '"soft"; that was a ball that just got over the infield and rarely do outfielders catch them. The others were medium-speed line drives and it's not good that Alvarez didn't catch any of them.

But, upon further review, there were only two, maybe three, that I would have expected an outfielder to catch. Some of the line drives found a hole in the infield and landed a few feet behind the infield dirt; it's not Alvarez' fault that he couldn't catch them. Others were well-placed; Alvarez could have caught them had he been positioned differently but then he would have given up other territory.

And here too Alvarez is showing his lack of experience. On two of the line-drive singles, a runner scored from second (and on one of them, the batter took second on his throw home.) And, while on three line-drive singles he was able to hold a runner on first to a one-base advance, on another a runner on first advanced to third.

On balance, Alvarez has made 90-95 percent of the plays I would hope a good right fielder would make. Pedro Alvarez has impressed.


Roger said...

But the bat.....

Anonymous said...

Good news! Another reason we should have passes on Trumbo!

Unknown said...

#Roger -True, he's not hitting. That's why he shouldn't be called up now.

Anonymous said...

Roger that!

Unknown said...

Pretty much all of the Orioles prospects in the minors play OF, not counting Cisco. Im not sure Alvarez is needed, with Mancini and Rickard both struggling to get enough PA's. Its a situation.

Boss61 said...

To me, the Alvarez experiment borders on silliness. It was silly to have extended Crush the large contract he received and it was silly to re-sign Trumbo when the financial resources could be so much better used to address many pending free agency circumstances.

But regardless of those questionable roster decisions, to management it seemed silly and disloyal to cast aside Pedro and his 22 homers in 2016 without so much as a defensive look-see at AAA.

What remains silly is that even if the experiment succeeds, we have no place on the MLB roster for Pedro. At least not until Kim somehow is moved, whose presence is starting also to seem silly.

I'm glad a MLB-caliber athlete is not embarrassing himself, but I cannot help but feel that it will be some other organization that benefits from the success of the silly experiment.