Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Beckham v. Alvarez

I should start by saying that with the second pick in the draft, I don't think the Pirates can go wrong by picking either Alvarez or Beckham with the second pick in this draft. They're both good prospects that in their own ways are the type of player the Pirates should be looking for and since the team seems focused on either one of these two guys, I don't expect to be disappointed with the Pirates' first round pick this week. That being said, I still have an opinion on who I think the Pirates should take with that pick, and so let's look at Beckham and Alvarez a bit.

We can start with Tim Beckham. Phrases like this one (from Dejan's profile of him) make me nervous:

Beckham, 18, is seen by many scouts as the five-tool talent with the highest ceiling in a draft that is not viewed as being especially rich.
"Five-tool," in my mind, is what scouts say about a player that they like, but can't give a reason why. Show me a high school kid that's a projected first-round pick that isn't viewed as a five-tool talent and maybe that would be more of a ringing endorsement. Still, Barry Larkin comparisons are nothing to sneeze at. He clearly has a penchant for putting the bat on the ball, given his high high school batting averages, and while he hasn't shown a ton of high school power, he does look like a guy that can add some power to his frame.

The other option is Pedro Alvarez. I like Alvarez for the two-spot for a number of reasons. First of all, he really was the consensus #1 pick for quite a while until his broken hand. That hand is a bit of a concern, but it's certainly not a huge one because the hamate isn't a terribly important bone to a hitter (Dustin Pedroia played through the playoffs last year with a cracked hamate). All signs seem to point to his recovery from the injury being normal, so I don't know how much it's worth worrying about. There's also some concern about Alvarez sticking at third base, but everything I've read about his power seems to indicate that it'll play fine at first base.

The big question with Alvarez is his agent, Scott Boras. The early indications are that Boras will be looking for a $7 million signing bonus for Alvarez, though he's probably blowing at least a little smoke to try and scare a team like the Pirates off given that David Price signed for less than $6 million as the #1 overall last year. He will probably ask for an immediate major league contract, but all that means is that he has to be on the 40-man roster from the time he's signed, meaning that his option years get used up rather quickly. I just don't see that as a concern with a player like Alvarez because if he's not ready in three years, he's not the prospect that everyone thinks he is.

Part of the reason that I think I'm leaning towards Alvarez as the better pick is that it seems pretty obvious to me that that's who Huntington's set his mind on (assuming he's available) and so most conversations with him tend to be more favorable towards Alvarez. There's a couple reasons why I think the Pirates are looking towards Alvarez as the pick. One is that I assume that Huntington is planning on building around Walker and McCutchen and Alvarez is about the same age as the two of them. Adding a third player to that core would be just another step in the right direction. Another reason is that I think Huntington is actually going out of his way to pick a Boras client. The Royals have cultivated a very good relationship with the superagent in the past couple years and have used that to their advantage. They drafted Mike Moustakas with the #2 pick in the draft last year and signed him for $2 million less than the Orioles signed Matt Wieters, though Wieters went fifth. Agreeing to work with Boras and giving Alvarez a big signing bonus works to not only net one of the best talents in the draft, it sends a message that the Pirates are willing to work with notoriously tough agents and open the checkbook when it's necessary. With the stage the Pirates are in right now, it makes much more sense to make that kind of splash in the draft rather than the free agent market.

Honestly, though, I'm just happy to know that the Pirates are considering two solid prospects with this pick in the draft.