Pedro Alvarez was a dynamic offensive force in the middle of the Pittsburgh Pirates lineup in 2013. Although he batted just .233 and led the National League with 186 strikeouts in 152 games, he blasted a career-high 36 home runs while driving in 100.  

The 2014 season was a down year for Alvarez, who collected just 18 home runs and 56 RBI while missing 40 starts due to a lingering foot injury.  

No player on the Pirates roster came close to driving in 100 runs last season, though the team still managed to win 88 games and make the playoffs as a wild card.  Andrew McCutchen led the Pirates with 83 RBI in 146 games.

Although the Pirates endured success even without their most powerful bat in the lineup for about one quarter of the season, a bounce-back year from Alvarez is crucial for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2015.

For one, it gives McCutchen the protection behind him needed to see more strikes thrown his way and potentially drive in 100-plus runs for the first time in his already illustrious career.  In fact, the three-four lineup combination of McCutchen and Alvarez has been arguably the best in the National League over the last three seasons, as the pair has combined for 161 home runs and 504 RBI from 2012-14.   

While the Pirates would surely accept another berth in the Wild Card Game this season, they cannot be satisfied with that, as the team has made the playoffs as a wild card in two consecutive seasons and has only advanced past the one-game playoff once.  

As always, we can expect the St. Louis Cardinals to be potential front-runners in the race for the National League Central Division title, as they managed to retain most of its lineup while also acquiring the dangerous right fielder Jayson Heyward from the Atlanta Braves.  

Then there are the Milwaukee Brewers, who cannot be taken lightly after the hot start to most of the season in 2014 before they crumbled and failed to make the playoffs.  

While the Chicago Cubs are probably still a year away from making a major impact in the division race, the acquisition of ace starting pitcher Jon Lester along with their young star-studded lineup gives them the potential to make a run at a wild card.  

Needless to say, the Pirates will need all hands on deck as they pursue their first National League Central Division title in franchise history.  

Health is the main concern for Pedro Alvarez, who just turned 28 in February and is entering his sixth major league season.  

His average over the last two seasons (.233 in 2013/.231 in 2014) has remained consistent with his overall career average of .235.  So, you can expect to get a low batting average from him, but his tremendous power and ability to drive runners in is a major trade-off that any manager would gladly take, especially in an era of baseball when scoring is down and pitching has dominated.  

The Pirates batted .230 as a team with runners in scoring position in 2013.  Alvarez accounted for a lot of those hits, batting .243 in that situation.  

Last season, however, the Pirates batted .249 with runners in scoring position, but Alvarez brought that average down from what it could have been if he was healthy and producing at his normal rate, batting just .202.  

Aside from a minor elbow injury that kept him off the field for a few games, Alvarez is off to a great start this spring, batting .333 with two home runs and nine RBI in nine games for the Pirates.

With the emergence of Josh Harrison as a star third baseman for the Pirates in 2014, Alvarez is likely to see a considerable amountif not a majorityof his playing time at first base this season.  He played five games at first base last season, and the Pirates already have him listed as their primary first baseman on the team’s depth chart.   

The 25 errors he committed at third base in 2014 is what led the organization to make the transition. Meanwhile, Harrison made just three errors in 72 games at the hot corner in 2014.  

Right there alone, the Pirates will improve defensively, as runs will likely be prevented thanks to Harrison’s glove.  

What is most important to the Pirates, however, is that Alvarez remains healthy enough to play a full season in 2014, as the power he brings to the table can take them from being a wild-card team to potentially winning the division and making a deep run into the postseason.  


*Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference

Read more MLB news on