FanPost

Pedro Alvarez and Expectations


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Pat Lackey of WHYGAVS tweeted an interesting question today:

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>Is Pedro Alvarez having a breakout year relative to pre-season expectations or a disappointingyear relative to prior prospect status?</p>— Pat Lackey (@whygavs) <a href="https://twitter.com/whygavs/status/238668313583038464" data-datetime="2012-08-23T16:05:34+00:00">August 23, 2012</a></blockquote>
<script src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

The easy answer is yes and no. Yes, this season is a roaring success considering his 2011 season, his spring training, and the early part of 2012. As a highly touted prospect, it’s a disappointing year.

Or is it?

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My answer is, no. Not really.

A caveat: The season isn’t over. He could go on one of his patented cold streaks (of course, he could also go on one of his patented hot streaks). But let’s say the season ended today.

Here’s Pedro’s line: .236/.319/.436

His OPS + is 114 and his oWAR (Baseball Reference’s Offensive WAR. Defense is not included, but it is adjusted for position). I’ll use these stats as comparison because they do a decent job of normalizing for environment and position.

Pedro has 433 plate appearances this year, and I’ll count this as his first full season. He was a call-up in 2010, playing 95 games and falling short of the 400 PAs. Last year he didn’t make it to 300 PAs, between being demoted and hurt.

Okay. That’s Pedro.

I decided to compare him to all of the past #2 overall picks, hitters only. Pedro was probably more hyped than some, probably less hyped than some. But as #2 overall picks, they more or less shared a level of expectation. Obviously I’m not taking into account strength of the draft, etc., but as the draft happens (and for several years after that), that’s not really known anyway.

There have been 24 position players drafted #2 overall from 1965 (when the draft started) until 2011 (I’m leaving out Byron Buxton for obvious reasons).

I simply looked at all of those players first full seasons. Again, I’m defining full season as 400 PAs, which is somewhat arbitrary, but mostly fair. It throws away, in general, the first few hundred PAs, in which these guys were either adjusting to the pitchers, or the pitchers were trying to adjust to them. In other words, it removes most of the time spent in the Majors adjusting, which can produce crazy results. Some players were hurt by this (namely, if they reached 400 PAs in their first shot at the Bigs, but I’ll note that).

Of these 24 players, three (Mark Merchant, Augie Smith, and Garry Harris) never played in the MLB. And three (Mike Kelly, Tyler Houston, and Terry Hughes) didn’t play much. Of those three, only Houston had some semblance of a career.

Of the 18 left, Alvarez’s OPS+ in his first full season ranks fifth, behind Reggie Jackson, B.J. Upton, Ben Grieve, and Will Clark*.

His oWAR also ranks fifth, this time behind Upton, Jackson, Grieve, and John Stearns. Pedro edges out Will Clark here.

*A quick note on Will Clark. These numbers were from his rookie year. In his second year, he had an OPS + of 152 and an oWAR of 4.0, trouncing everyone in OPS+ and coming in just behind Upton in oWAR. Alex Gordon also played a full year (by my definition here) in his rookie year. In his second season, he posted a 109 OPS +, and a 3.2 oWAR.

So…based on OPS+ and oWAR, Alvarez is fifth-best #2 overall pick at roughly this point in their careers.

Here’s the data:

Name

OPS+

oWAR

Notes

B.J. Upton

136

4.8

Reggie Jackson

138

3.9

Ben Grieve

123

3.8

John Stearns

112

2.7

Pedro Alvarez

114

1.9

Will Clark

121

1.7

Year two: 152/4.0

Rick Manning

101

1.7

Mike Moustakas

101

1.6

J.D. Drew *

91

1.4

Dustin Ackley

80

1.4

Travis Lee

103

1.2

Rickie Weeks

90

1

Alex Gordon

90

0.9

Year two: 109/3.2

Ben Davis

88

0.9

Kurt Stillwell

80

0.8

Joe Carter

93

0.7

Tony Clark

98

0.2

Lloyd Moseby

73

-0.7

Mike Kelly

n/a

n/a

Career 85/-0.5

Tyler Houston

n/a

n/a

Career 90/2.8

Mark Merchant

n/a

n/a

Never played in MLB

Augie Schmidt

n/a

n/a

Never played in MLB

Garry Harris

n/a

n/a

Never played in MLB

Terry Hughes

n/a

n/a

Career 57/-0.3

*Drafted second overall by Philadelphia in 1997, but did not sign. Went fifth overall to St. Louis the next year.

Now, what about relative to his own draft? That is to say, how’s he doing compared to other players the Pirates could have drafted? This is a bit of an exercise in the hypothetical since there were only really a handful of guys at the time that you could have justified picking in the number two spot. For instance, Alex Avila has already put up 6.9 career bWAR, and he was drafted in the fifth round. The comparison to other first round picks of his year is to get an idea, though, of what would be expected out of first round pick in that draft, roughly. For this, we’ll look at this year (as opposed to the players’ respective first full seasons) because they’ve had, more or less, the same amount of time to develop.

I’ve included the compensatory round here, too, though none of those picks ended up really mattering.

There were 24 position players drafted in the first round or compensatory round. Of those, 17 have played in the Majors this year, and probably 14 are firmly in the Big Leagues, in some capacity.

So, of his draft-mates, this year, Alvarez (114) has the third-best OPS+, behind Buster Posey (167!) and Brett Wallace (136). Wallace has put up those numbers in just 114 plate appearances, so there’s a good chance they’d go down. Lonnie Chisenhall is fourth with 110 and Yonder Alonso is fifth with 106.

In terms of oWAR, Alvarez (1.9) comes in second behind Buster Posey (5.2!!), and just edging out Brett Lawrie (1.8). Lawrie, by the way, has a 98 OPS+. Lawrie, I think, is particularly interesting given that he plays the same position and gets much more praise (his stellar defense and non-historically-awful 2011 have a lot to do with that, in fairness).

Here’s the data:

Name

OPS+

oWAR

Notes

Buster Posey

167

5.2

Pedro Alvarez

114

1.9

Brett Lawrie

98

1.8

Logan Forsythe

101

0.9

221 PAs

Brett Wallace

136

0.7

114 PAs

Jason Castro

90

0.6

David Cooper

109

0.5

145 PAs

Jemile Weeks

71

0.5

Yonder Alonso

106

0.4

Lonnie Chisenhall

110

0.3

Gordan Beckham

73

0.3

Eric Hosmer

82

0.1

Ike Davis

96

0

Conor Gillaspie

-1

-0.2

(20 MLB PAs), Age 25, in AAA

Ryan Flaherty

49

-0.5

128 PAs

Johnny Giavotella

33

-0.5

91 PAs

Justin Smoak

64

-1.4

Aaron Hicks

n/a

n/a

Age 22, in AA

Reese Havens

n/a

n/a

Age 25, in AA

Allan Dykstra

n/a

n/a

Age 25, in AA

Anthony Hewitt

n/a

n/a

Age 23, in A+

Casey Kelly

n/a

n/a

Age 22, in AA

Zach Collier

n/a

n/a

Age 21, in A+

Jaff Decker

n/a

n/a

Age 22, in AA

Anyway, those are the numbers. The expectations for a first round draft pick are high. The expectations for a second overall draft pick: even higher. The expectations for a Pirates second overall draft pick? Through the roof. But if we dial that back a bit to more reasonable bench marks….

Pedro Alvarez’s 2012 has been a thing of beauty if you compare it to last year, when he was downright awful. He’s made an enormous bounce-back. But forget last year. Just look at his performance within the context of being a number 2 overall pick, and within the context of being a first round pick in 2008, he’s producing at a clip that you might expect, relative to his peers.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of the managing editor (Charlie) or SB Nation. FanPosts are written by Bucs Dugout readers.

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