September 8, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez (24) breaks on a ground ball against the Chicago Cubs during the eighth inning at PNC Park. The Chicago Cubs won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Pirates Season Preview: A look at the third basemen

I continue my look at the 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates today with a stop at the hot corner.

Pedro Alvarez is coming off of a good 2012 season and hopes are high that he will continue the upward trend when it comes to run production. If El Toro becomes the middle of the order threat that many feel he can become, then the Pirates lineup will be much better.

Apr. 17, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates infielder Pedro Alvarez during game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

With that being said, let’s take a look at the third basemen.

Starter: Pedro Alvarez

After another slow start last year, Alvarez put together a solid season, hitting .241 with 30 homers and 85 RBI. But the impressive part is that from June 15 on, Pedro hit .272 with 22 of his 30 homers. It’s even more impressive when you consider that he has just a 34 percent fly ball rate. If he gets that number around 40 percent, Alvarez could challenge for a home run title.

Avoiding a slow start may be impossible, but if Alvarez comes out of the gates hot and picks right up where he left off in 2012, he could be in for a big 2013 season.

He’s become a difference maker and before long could be the guy carrying the Pirates offense. Just imagine the pitches he would see if the Bucs would even get another big bat to hit behind him?

Defensively, Alvarez is turning himself into a pretty solid third baseman. Even though he won’t be winning a gold glove anytime soon, he can handle himself fine.

Overall, there are still holes in Alvarez’s game, most notably against southpaws, but I still look for a big year. The strikeouts will also still be a problem, but if Alvarez is a big run producer, I can deal with the K’s.

2013 Projections: .240 AVG/.320 OBP/.485 SLG/ 35 HR/ 95 RBI

Backup: Brandon Inge

If his body doesn’t breakdown, Inge could play third base a lot against southpaws. With that being said, he’s likely to begin the season on the disabled list.

He has value in the fact that he can play multiple positions, but Inge is also a guy with a historical low OBP and despite adding a little bit of pop off the Pirates’ bench, Inge doesn’t improve the team a great deal.

2013 Projections: .225 / .290/ .390/ 10/ 35

Prospect to watch: None

The cupboard at the hot corner is relatively bare right now, so the entire future lies with Alvarez. If  there is one guy to keep an eye on though, it would have to be former pitcher Stetson Allie, who begins his first full season at the hot corner.

My Take:

Alvarez will likely come out of the gate slow and could be hitting .180 by mid-May and Pirates fans will jump all over him. But like we saw last season, Pedro will have a big year with the bat and should be a solid run producer in the middle of the Pirates lineup.

I don’t expect much out of Inge and really don’t understand why he is on the roster, but a guy like Josh Harrison isn’t a better option so it is what it is. Whatever they get out of Inge is a bonus, but it continues the trend of the Bucs having a below average bench.

One option though would be to get the bat of Gaby Sanchez in the lineup against lefties, as he did see some time at third base in spring training.

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Tags: Brandon Inge Pedro Alvarez Pittsburgh Pirates Stetson Allie

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