Pittsburgh Pirates: Best Addition Not Even a Player?


Aug 18, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Pedro Alvarez (24) fields a ground ball against the Atlanta Braves during the third inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Pirates had an above average off-season with player acquisitions and re-signings, but who exactly was the best addition to the team?

A.J. Burnett or Francisco Liriano? Nope.

Francisco Cervelli? Nah.

Jung-ho Kang? Not him either.

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Though the above guys will likely make a big impact in 2015, or at least the Pirates hope, they still may not be the best addition going into 2015.  So, you might ask, who was then, genius?  Well, it came without much fan fare and he’s not even on the 40-man roster.

Kevin Young.

I’ll let that sink in.

Stay with me on this.

Pedro Alvarez had a WAR of 0.8 last year, largely due to his decreased offensive output from the previous year (3.7).  Of all of the acquisitions and re-signings, he has the most to gain by improving Alvarez’ offensive production; however, the only way to improve his offensive production is to have him in the lineup.  So, how to get him into the lineup?

Obviously, with the season that Josh Harrison had, there was not much of an opportunity for Alvarez to unseat Harrison at third base out of Spring Training, especially considering the defensive liability he developed (or regressed?) into.  Therefore, the only spot for Pedro to move to is first base, which is logical considering many factors, namely fit for the Pirates.

So, how to make the defensive transition?  Well, that’s where Kevin Young comes into play.

Kevin Young, for those of you who don’t remember, is a Pirates’ alumni, having spent eleven seasons with the club into 2003.  In his tenure, he spent a large percentage of his time at first base, despite being a natural third baseman in his minor league career. 

It is with his extensive first base experience paired with the memory of transitioning from third to first base that the Pirates hope Alvarez can learn and develop into an acceptable defender at first base.

That’s the easy part.

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  • The hard part is that Pedro is going to have to return his power numbers to the levels of his 2012 (30 HR) and 2013 (36 HR) seasons at the same time he’s transitioning to a new position and dealing with the discomfort of doing so.

    He hit 18 homers in 2014.  Obviously there were fewer at-bats, but his HR/PA ratio was 4.0% in 2014, compared with 5.1% and 5.9% in 2013 and 2014.  He’s paid to hit home runs, and he didn’t do enough of that in 2014.  Without the power, there’s really no upside to having Alvarez in the lineup.

    He’s not going to win you games defensively.  He cannot hit for average (.235 lifetime).  He strikes out in 30% of all plate appearances and is well below the Mendoza line against left-handed pitching with only a handful of homers.

    If Kevin Young can help to instill some confidence in Alvarez about his new position to allow him to develop a certain level of comfort, it isn’t too much to expect to see a positive impact on his bat.

    I suppose that’s what Spring Training is for.


    – I find it somewhat disappointing that Alvarez did not show up for voluntary workouts at Pirate City last week, as he’s both coming off of an injury and trying to learn a new position.  One would have thought that would have been a desirable platform for Alvarez to showcase his recovery and development.

    – With the off-season addition of Corey Hart, it’s quite possible (and probably expected) that the Pirates will employ a platoon situation at first base between Alvarez and Hart – Alvarez seeing action against right-handed pitching and Hart against left-handed pitching.  If both guys produce as expected, the platoon as a whole would be a starter at the 2015 All-Star Game.

    – Here’s one of two highlights of Kevin Young I could find – the other involved Carlos Garcia and no one cares to remember that, I don’t think.

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