Pedro Alvarez has turned into a success after nothing more than a hot week. That being said, if you remember, before the season started I wrote a post about how Alvarez should start the season in AAA (my friends at Pittsburgh Sports Forum won't recall that since my posts weren't being published on that site at the time). My main argument for that was that the Pirates had options to fill that position while Alvarez spent time figuring out whatever it was that plagued him. I was wrong. I was very wrong.
Let's not pretend that Alvarez has been an unstoppable force this season. He struggled to start the year but he has figured it out lately. That could be nothing more than a hot streak or if the Pittsburgh Pirates are lucky, he could be turning a corner. His batting average still sits at an even .200 and he leads the team in strikeouts with 22. But the good far outweighs the bad. He leads the team in home runs with four which is also more than anyone on the Atlanta Braves' roster which is the team that the Pirates are currently facing. His OPS is only .006 points lower than team leader Andrew McCutchen.
What Alvarez is doing alone is enough to prove me wrong. But what the guys who I suggested be stopgaps have done just pounds the point home. The three guys that I argued could split time at third base were Josh Harrison, Yamaico Navarro, and Matt Hague. Harrison only has two hits on the season. Both of them are extra base hits but that still only leaves his OPS at .436. Navarro rarely ever sees playing time and when he does, it isn't very effective. He only has one base hit this season which leaves his batting average at .077. Hague got sent back to AAA but he wasn't very successful either in his short time with the big club. He only had one hit in nine at bats. So that means that those three guys combined are 4-for-40 on the season.
Alvarez's .200 average is probably the least impressive thing about him right now and it is still twice as good as those three guys combined.
I can only imagine what the Pirates would be going through if they took my advice at the beginning of the season. Their offense is already anemic. If you take the guy with the most home runs and most RBI's out of the lineup and it is infinitely worse. But since they didn't take my advice, there is potential for it to trend upwards. Alvarez still isn't walking a ton but he is seeing a lot more pitches. He's starting to hit lefties now too buy taking the approach of hitting the ball the other way. Out of his 11 hits, eight of them are for extra bases.
So I was wrong about one suggestion. All that means is that I'm going to make another one. It is time to put Alvarez in the clean up role. I know that he has only been hitting well for a little over a week and that you don't want to take him out of his comfort zone. But you can't have your best power hitter being protected by Rod Barajas in the lineup. It's going to get to the point where he is never going to see a pitch to hit. I know the concern is that putting more pressure on him could send him right back into his struggles, but this is a high profile player and the only power threat in a bad lineup. It's time to sink or swim.