It is a new year and the Royalas are still without a designated hitter following the departure of Kendrys Morales to Toronto. The Royals continue to beat the drum of the “rotating designated hitter” idea, but with a market awash in designated hitter options, it makes more sense for the Royals to at least take a look at acquiring a slugger who can hit the ball out of the ballpark.
Reportedly, the Royals are doing just that, as Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports that that the Royals may be interested in left-handed slugger Pedro Alvarez. Cafardo writes that the former #2 overall pick has maintained dialogue with the Orioles, but that the Royals may be interested as well. Alvarez has enormous power as a former home run champion, leading the league in 2013 with 36 dingers, but he has been plagued by poor defense, a low batting average, and tons of strikeouts in his career.
The former Vanderbilt third baseman hit .249/.322/.504 with 22 home runs in 109 games for the Orioles last year, his first year with the club. Prior to that, he hit .236/.309/.441 with 139 home runs in six seasons with the Pirates after they took him in the first round of the 2008 draft.
Although he hit 14 of his 22 home runs last year in dinger-friendly Camden Yards, Alvarez would have enough power to get it out of Kauffman Stadium. He had the second-highest exit velocity on fastballs and line drives last year, and the sixth-highest exit velocity overall, according to Baseball Savant, showing his great power.
Courtesy ESPN Home Run Tracker.
Alvarez strikes out a ton, which seems to run contrary to the Royals philosophy. Since 2012, he has struck out 28.1% of the time, 12th-highest among all hitters with at least 2,000 plate appearances. Alvarez has a rather large platoon split, so he should probably sit against most lefties. Last year, he hit just .243/.293/.378 in 44 plate appearances against southpaws, and his career OPS split is .801 against right-handers, and just .606 against left-handers. Against lefties, the Royals could perhaps try use Salvador Perez at DH to give him a break, or rest Lorenzo Cain’s legs with a day at DH and Billy Burns in centerfield.
Despite being a large man, Alvarez was actually a decent baserunner last year, with 2.1 Baserunning Runs (BsR), according to Fangraphs, a far cry from the negative BsR put up last year by Kendrys Morales. He likely won’t steal many bases (although he did swipe eight in 2014), but he won’t be a major liability on the basepaths.
Alvarez came up as a third baseman, but was pretty awful, with limited mobility. He can play first base a little too, but his primary position should be designated hitter. Scott Boras insists he can play some outfield, but don’t look for him to patrol Kauffman Stadium.
Pedro Alvarez is still young - he won’t turn 30 for a few weeks. Last winter he signed a one-year, $5.75 million deal with incentives to play for Baltimore, and you can expect him to sign a similar deal this year. The Steamer projection system expects him to hit .250/.326/.485 for a Wins Above Replacement of 0.8, pretty similar numbers to Kendrys Morales but at a fraction of the price. There are still plenty of DH options available, so the Royals would seem to have the upper hand in negotiations, but Alvarez could provide some decent pop at a reasonable cost.