1-7-22 By Craig W. Toth (@BucsBasement on Twitter)
Prior to the start of the 2021 Minor League Baseball Season much of the focus concerning Pirates Prospects in the Farm System was pointed squarely at Greensboro’s roster; and with good reason. Quinn Priester, Carmen Mlodzinski, Michael Burrows, Omar Cruz, Braxton Ashcraft and Tahnaj Thomas lead the pitching staff, while Nick Gonzales and Liover Peguero held down the middle infield spots.
As the season progressed some disappointment was experienced due to injuries suffered by a few players on this list, as well as major control issues from the young flamethrower-Thomas. Nevertheless, by the end of the year most of the excitement came back around as the Grasshoppers found themselves competing for a High-A East Championship thanks to a majority of the top prospects on the roster; along with breakout seasons from Jared Triolo and Matthew Fraizer-who was promoted to Double-A Altoona at the beginning of August.
Of course there were other players that contributed to Greensboro’s success on the season, many whom you’ve probably never heard mentioned-not even in passing-due to the tunnel vision often exhibited when scouting an organization’s prospects; which I really can’t blame anyone for, seeing as as top prospect lists are all the rage, and not everyone has time to scour MiLB stat sheets all day. However, if you did, Andres Alvarez would be a name that consistently popped up on your radar; especially during the final two months of the season.
Drafted by the Pirates in the 22nd Round (664th Overall) back in 2019 out of Washington State University as a Senior, Alvarez had spent his first year of collegiate ball at Trinidad State Junior College before becoming a Cougar for the final three; earning All-PAC-12 Honors twice. Known for his glove at shortstop and patience at the plate, he ended his career with a .286 AVG, a .741 OPS and 95 Ks to 67 BB in 604 at bats.
Immediately following his selection, Alvarez would spend almost his first year in the organization with the GCL-now FCL-Pirates before being promoted to then Low-A Greensboro for the final five games of the season. On the year the glove first profile rung true as he bounced around to nearly every position in the infield, while batting only .226 with a .636 OPS.
So, obviously not a great start to his Minor League Career; although, unfortunately for him, this was not going to be the worst of it. Following the cancelled 2020 season, Alvarez would be placed on the 7-Day IL only four days into his assignment with the now High-A Greensboro Grasshoppers. Ultimately landing in extended Spring Training at Pirate City back in Bradenton, it would be almost another two whole months before he would see any game action.
For the first month his struggles continued as he slashed .209/.320/.302 with a single homer over 50 plate appearances. It was at this point that I thought it could be the end of the line for Alvarez. That was until he went on an absolute tear in August, which continued into a very solid month of September.
In the final two months combined he smashed six of his seven homers, batted .333 and put up a .951 OPS; yet, as with several others in the Grasshopper’s lineup, my main concern was the disparity between his home and road splits. Outside of the friendly confines of the bandbox known as First National Bank Field, Alvarez’s OPS dropped by nearly 450 points; from 1.137 to .693. For reference, the previous mentioned Peguero and Gonzales saw theirs fall by 100+ (.828 to .720) and 200+ (1.065 to .808) respectfully on the road.
Obviously, this a bit of a red flag. Add in his professional track record prior to August and the color starts to take the appearance of a full fledged crimson hue; or simply stated as more worrisome in layman’s terms.
Currently Alvarez is playing in Liga de Béisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente (aka the Puerto Rican Winter League) for Gigantes de Carolina; with fellow Pirates Bligh Madris and Ethan Paul. On the season he has arguably the best stats of the three, which sadly isn’t saying much at this point. With a .231/.302/.282 slash line in 11 games and across 44 plate appearances, he will have a lot to prove as he lands back in Greensboro or slightly north in Altoona.
Luckily for him the experience of overcoming being forgotten, lost in the shuffle and/or possibly counted out by some is still fairly fresh, and can possibly be used for motivation. Because, honestly he is going to need it in order to go toe-to-toe with the Pirates top middle infield prospects yet again.