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Pirates feel they promoted Pedro Alvarez too quickly

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

There are some interesting quotes from Neal Huntington in Rob Biertempfel's recent piece about Pedro Alvarez's non-tender:

"My mistake was bringing him to the big leagues before he was ready," general manager Neal Huntington said late Wednesday night, minutes after the club officially severed ties with Alvarez. "That was my mistake. In hindsight, giving him additional time in the minors probably would have been very beneficial. Things might have been different."

Looking back, I think Huntington might be right, although I didn't see it at the time. Alvarez's first game in the big leagues was June 16, 2010, by which point he'd had less than a year and a half in the minors. A year and a half isn't obviously too little for a top draft pick from a big college program, but there were a some blemishes in Alvarez's minor league performance record that were probably under-discussed at the time because we were all so excited about Alvarez's power and about what he represented. (And, of course, because Alvarez's minor league performances were impressive overall -- he does have a career .278/.372/.516 minor league line.)

Alvarez struck out 129 times in his first year in the minors. That's not an exorbitant number for a major league slugger, but probably a few too many for a young player trying to find himself. Then he struck out 68 times in 278 plate appearances at Indianapolis in 2010 before being promoted. That's a lot. Although Alvarez handled himself well in his first year in the big leagues, hitting 16 homers in 95 games, he wasn't always making the most of his at-bats, and he really struggled the next season. There were any number of plate appearances where he looked ridiculous because he couldn't handle offspeed stuff, and while he learned to handle non-fastballs somewhat better later in his career, he might well have benefited from more time learning to hit changeups and breaking pitches in the International League. (Alvarez did get demoted to Triple-A in 2011, but he didn't stay long.)

Obviously, a player can learn while he's in the major leagues as well as when he's in the minors. But in retrospect, maybe the best course of action would have been to delay his promotion a bit longer. Alvarez probably would have been a flawed player no matter what, but a few extra months in the minors might well have helped.