To anyone who knows the contribution Pedro Alvarez made at the plate last season for the Orioles, let alone saw his scalding bat in spring training, the idea of him starting the season in the minors is one that takes some getting used to.
After all, he’s a former first-round pick (second overall) who hit 22 home runs and was worth 1.1 wins above replacement, according to FanGraphs, as a platoon designated hitter a season ago. He is as valuable a weapon as a team could have against right-handed pitching.
But just as he couldn’t control when he’d be in the lineup last season, he has to swallow an assignment to Triple-A Norfolk this season. And to get back, Alvarez will have to continue his improvement as an outfielder, a position he says he’s embracing.
“I feel good out there,” Alvarez said. “I just try to worry about what I can control, and that’s just the work I put in. Anything that’s out of my control, I don’t concern myself in terms of decision-making.”
While one of the Orioles’ two converted outfielders this spring — Trey Mancini — will make the club out of spring training, Alvarez was signed to a minor league deal that included a financial incentive in the event the club doesn’t add him to the Opening Day roster, and no opt-out until mid-May.
That means that going into the agreement, he had to accept at least the possibility of going to the minors, one that’s looking likely, considering the bench situation. All three of Trey Mancini, Joey Rickard, and Craig Gentry have made good cases to make the club; Alvarez is a strong insurance policy who gets to learn the outfield for six or seven weeks before the Orioles get to decide whether he fits into their plans.
Until then, Alvarez knows his outfield development is paramount, but his bat will be his biggest asset wherever he goes. He finished Grapefruit League games batting .310 (9-for-29) with two home runs and five RBIs, and also homered twice in a ‘B’ game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“I’ve been feeling pretty good so far,” Alvarez said. “I feel like I’ve been, you know, able to put on some good swings on some hittable balls, and putting some good at-bats together. At this point, that’s all you can ask for. I feel pretty good about just the opportunities that I’ve been given and I feel like I’ve had some good at-bats.”