As much as I would like to see Pedro Alvarez sent down in order to get himself straightened out, I would like to see him succeed that much more. I do not believe that he is a bust. I think we are a couple of years and several hundred ML at bats away from being able to declare something like that.
How would you define a bust? How would I define a bust? I figure that an early first round pick should be able to help change the course of a franchise (or if the franchise was heading in the right direction, contribute to the continuation of winning baseball). The all-time Bucco leader in home runs among third baseman is Richie Hebner with 129. Pie Traynor collected over 2,400 hits while playing primarily third base for the Bucs back in the 1920s and 1930s. My belief is that Pedro should surpass the tater mark for Pirate 3B. I also believe he should accumulate at least 1,500 hits. For the sake of simplicity, let’s say 150 homers is the bust/not bust mark. I don’t think many people would be all that thrilled if that (in the vicinity of 150 homers) is where he wound up for his career. But if he hits fewer than Hebner, then I’m calling ‘bust’. And I might be late to the party.
To get some historical perspective on the start to his career, I ran some numbers at baseball-reference.com. I took a look at any player since the advent of the free agent draft that hit less than .220 in any one of his first three years in the Bigs in which he appeared in at least 75 games. There are about 300 such cases (for non-pitchers, obviously). Pedro’s 2011 season qualifies him. The group can loosely be broken down thusly:
Guys who could slug but do little else and had long enough careers to hit a lot of homers (Gorman Thomas, Dave Kingman)
Guys who were/are good defensively and offensively but had a slow start (Gary Carter, Mike Schmidt, Boomer Scott, Brandon Phillips)
Guys who lasted a long time primarily on the strength of their defense (Jim Sundberg and several other catchers)
Guys who were expected to slug, didn’t and washed out quickly or slowly (Doug Frobel, Jim Lindeman, Brad Komminsk, David McCarty)
Guys who are still active but have struggled (Justin Smoak, Pedro)
Next I ran a new report looking for players who belted 150 home runs over the same time frame (1965 to the present). So, who and how many players had a rough go of it at least once in their first three years and yet managed to club 150 career homers? By my count, there are 28. Plus Brandon Inge and Brandon Phillips would seem to have a great chance at breaking the 150 HR barrier (maybe a couple more active players that I missed). The players who spent time in the minors during the season they struggled or the season right after are in bold.
In alphabetical order:
Like Alvarez, a handful of these guys played third or came up as third baseman – Beltre, Easley, King, Palmer, Schmidt, and Williams. Plus Kingman and Scott played some third early in their career. Nearly half of them spent time in the minors in the time frame of their struggles.
So, I’m not ready to make the case that Alvarez is a bust. I believe there is still time. Hopefully he gets going soon.