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Pittsburgh PiratesPedro Alvarez is starting to turn the corner. Taking the next step. However, early career struggles had insiders, fans, writers, and everything in-between, labeling him as a “bust”.

Let’s not forget that he was the second overall pick in the 2008 draft. So pressure and expectations are sky-high for him, and that’s not anything out of the ordinary.

That’s a common theme with almost all high MLB draft picks. Alvarez, however, didn’t meet or exceed those expectations when he first broke into the majors, which caused some concern throughout the club.

In an article on Baseball America, one writer called him “the biggest waste of hitting talent in draft history”. That’s a pretty bold statement especially from a respected baseball publication. Sure, if it came from some snobby fan, then a statement like that would simply be shrugged off.

That wasn’t the case, however. And believe it or not, that bold statement was pretty precise. Harsh? Yes. True? You bet. Yes Alvarez was young, but there were too many red flags to ignore at this stage of his young career.

With the suspense at an all-time high, Alvarez made his debut in 2010. The slugger wasn’t terribly bad in his first year. In 347 at-bats, he totaled 16 home runs and hit for a triple slash of .256/.326/.461.

Mediocre is a word commonly used to describe his first season in the majors. Mediocre wouldn’t the right word to describe Alvarez’s 2011 campaign though.

2011 was essentially the year that worried fans. He went from a respectable rookie season, to an atrocious sophomore season. He hit just .191/.272/.289, 4 home runs, and just 19 RBIs in 235 at-bats. He had hit rock bottom, and the Pirates reacted to his struggles by demoting him.

His performance in the minor leagues during his demotion didn’t raise any eyebrows, as he hit just .256/.365/.432 during the stint. Basically, there was no use in having him sort his problems out at a lower level rather than in the majors, where the Pirates weren’t in the playoffs hunt.

So, he was called back up to the big club on July 25th, and continued to struggle, but the Pirates had no other choice but to let him play out the final couple months of the season.

And now, 2012 will be remembered as the year where he finally made his mark on the league. At first though, it looked as if this year was just going to be a repeat of 2011, mainly because he started terribly slow, hitting just .203/.242/.525 in April.

The lefty did however, smack 5 home runs in 59 April at-bats. So at least there was some hope. But when he hit .289/.379/.520 from July 1st to August 31st, he officially turned the corner. During that stretch he hit 11 home runs, and was named the player of the week to finish out August.

Sometimes, many people doesn’t grasp the patience concept of baseball. A high batting average will never be Alvarez’s strong suit. The closest he has come to hitting .300 or above in his career was his .288 average in the minor leagues. However, a solid batting average isn’t what the Pirates want.

They want a feared middle-of-the-order, power hitter out of Alvarez. This year they’re getting a sense of what that will look like. Alvarez could very well hit 30 home runs this season, considering that he’s just three away from that plateau.

Alvarez’s niche could be as a power hitter. OK, really great niche, right? For a third baseman to specialize in the power department is something different these days, because their aren’t many third basemen who fit that bill.

Miguel Cabrera and Adrian Beltre lead MLB in home runs, and Alvarez sits in third place with his 27 homers. However, Cabrera and Beltre both also hit for a high average, and get on base a lot. Alvarez is quite the opposite. He hits home runs and that’s practically it.

While it’s too early in his career to assume anything outrageous, he could end up being one of the great all-time home run hitters from a third base standpoint. Depending on his defense shapes up over time, as a move across the diamond to first base could come down one day.

The bottom line: Patience and realistic expectations will always be the keys with Pedro Alvarez.

This article was originally published at MLB Reports.  

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