As the Post-Gazette has reported, the Pirates have possibly marked Vanderbilt third baseman Pedro Alvarez as their target for the second pick in Thursday’s amateur draft. He is widely thought of as the best hitter in the draft, and is expected to be Major League ready in just a year or two.
Drafting Alvarez would say two things about the new management group. The first one is obvious. Making that pick would finally alleviate our fears that the Pirates will continue to draft players based on affordability. Alvarez is represented by Scott Boras, and will seek a bonus well above the slotted amount.
Just as significant, selecting Alvarez would indicate that the Pirates are committed to bringing a competitive team to PNC Park in the very near future. The team currently has a few decent prospects in the high minors, and Alvarez would be right behind them on the way to Pittsburgh. If Neal Huntington can spin his best trade bait (i.e. Jason Bay, Xavier Nady, John Grabow, Damaso Marte, etc.) for some talented pitching and middle infield at the Triple-A level, the Pirates could see a solid, young nucleus reach the Major Leagues in 2009 and 2010. If Huntington continues picking up quality role players like Phil Dumatrait and Chris Gomez for next to nothing, things could get a little more interesting very soon.
Does that mean picking Alvarez over Tim Beckham is the right move? Not necessarily. Beckham is a high school shortstop who is likely the most talented player in the draft. He may turn out to be a better player than Alvarez, and would be very valuable playing a premium position. But he is several years from being Major League ready.
Are the Pirates capable of winning in the next two years by adding Andrew McCutchen, Alvarez, Steve Pearce, Neil Walker and any players acquired in a trade this summer? Or should the team be building for five years down the road?