By John Toperzer
I’m convinced Pedro Alvarez is going to hit .250 one of these seasons. Yes, it is wishful thinking. He needs to avoid those Death Valley slumps, where he goes 1-for-two weeks. His walk rate has also dipped, from 14.9 percent in his only Triple-A year to 7.8 percent in 2013 with Pittsburgh. He did compile a 9.7 BB rate in 2012 with the Bucs, so there’s legitimate room for improvement.
Alvarez hit .256 as a rookie in 2010 (386 plate appearances), so the slugger set a precedent in the past.
His swing rate has jumped from about 43 percent to 50 percent, which might lead one to believe he basically hacks at anything coming out of the pitcher’s hand. But what’s interesting is that the pitches he swung at were inside the strike zone 70 percent of the time – a career high.
Lots of folks have pigeon-holed Pedro Alvarez as a Dave Kingman, Pete Incaviglia, all-or-nothing type and I happen to think there’s more to him than that.
I was listening to SiriusXM radio Monday and the host discussed the pro’s and con’s of drafting Andrew McCutchen third overall in fantasy baseball. The argument was made that McCutchen might only hit 15 or 16 homers as a floor and that makes him a risk (as the No. 3 pick). Speaking from a fantasy perspective, the host said he might prefer to take another batter who has the potential to either dominate in homers or steals, that there’s no way he could see McCutchen hitting 35 dingers.
I think the tough part for McCutchen is how he reacts to being named NL MVP. Do pitchers work around him more than ever? Is there a bit of a letdown by Cutch? I don’t see that being the case, but they’re reasonable questions.
I see McCutchen belting 35 homers before he steals 35 bags. Don’t get me wrong, he could swipe 35 or more bags if he sets his mind to it, but steals don’t come naturally for McCutchen. Sometimes he goes a month or more without even an attempt. Frankly, stealing bases isn’t one of his go-to skills. McCutchen has a strong but small frame. The extra sprinting seems to take a toll on him, especially when one considers how he hustles down the first-base line on routine grounders.
I think the power game still has room to grow with McCutchen. He’s in his age 27 season and Alvarez is beginning to provide better support behind him in the lineup.
Cutch hit 31 home runs in 2012, when he actually had a better season than his MVP campaign. If I had to make a bet, I’d say his homers increase before his stolen bases.
There’s a belief Francisco Liriano will regress from his 2013 numbers because he’s never put up strong back-to-back numbers in his eight major-league seasons. Looking over his numbers, he’s really had only three decent or better campaigns. In his last two American Leagues seasons, Liriano registered earned run averages of 5.09 and 5.34, respectively.
I think people are discounting the fact the National League is much more forgiving than the AL. The 2014 will only be his second season in the senior circuit (though he originally signed with the Giants in 2000).
If anything, the 30-year-old lefty is more of an injury risk than a performance risk. Sliders take a toll on arms and he’s got one of the best in baseball. Here’s a list of Liriano’s ailments and injuries, courtesy of RotoWire.
2006 – DUI, root canal, food poisoning, elbow/forearm, Tommy John surgery
2007 – Recovery from Tommy John
2009 – Late to spring training, forearm, arm fatigue
2010 – Dead arm, illness (Sept.)
2011 – Shoulder, illness/sore throat, shoulder
2012 – Quad, non-pitching arm (Christmas injury)
2013 – Non-pitching arm
Liriano is much better from the windup than the stretch. If he can pitch with some control – his 3.5 BB/9 IP last year was his best mark since 2010, then he could put together another strong season.
Liriano compiled an 8-1 record, 1.47 ERA and 0.96 WHIP at PNC Park. Pitching coach Ray Searage, who worked with the lefthander and his mechanics/release point, is also back for another season.
I see the downside similar to his post All-Star break numbers – 7-5 record, 3.95 ERA and 1.26 WHIP.
Click here for Francisco Liriano’s career statistics.