Monday, May 31, 2010

Jeff Clement/Justin Smoak/Pedro Alvarez

Jeff Clement, the Pirates' opening day starting first baseman, was taken with the third overall pick in the first round of the 2005 amateur draft by the Seattle Mariners.  He was rated the #42 prospect in all of minor league baseball in 2008.  The Pirates acquired him in a multi-player trade with Seattle July 29th of last year.  Clement has dominated AAA over the past few years, but as a repeater at that level he is expected to now prove himself at the major league level.  He is a left-handed batter who will be 27 in August.

Justin Smoak was drafted by the Texas Rangers with the eleventh overall pick in the first round of the 2008 amateur draft after his junior year at South Carolina.  After starting this season very impressively at AAA Oklahoma City, he was called up by the Rangers and made his debut on April 23.  Smoak is a switch-hitter who will be 24 in December.

Pedro Alvarez was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates with the first overall pick in the 2008 amateur draft out of Vanderbilt University.  Alvarez also started this season in AAA, at Indianapolis.  He has yet to be called up to the major leagues, but the expectation is it will happen soon.  Alvarez is a left-handed batter who turned 23 in February.

The goal here is not to equate the three players.  First and most importantly, Clement is three years older.  But when thinking about decisions to make going forward and seeing how guys often come up and struggle I thought this was illustrative.  These are the major league numbers for this year.

                PA      AB    H    2B  3B    HR    BB      K    AVG/OBP/SLG    OPS
Smoak     134     114    20    4     0       4       19      24     .175/.291/.316       .607

Clement   126     117    24    3     0       5        6       32     .205/.248/.359       .607

Clement's strikeout rate is high and he has drawn few walks.  Nonetheless, he has shown steady improvement.  He's been much better in May, better the last two weeks and better the past week.  It is a small sample size, but trending the right way.  Surprisingly, Clement is hitting better against lefties than righties thus far.  One would expect his numbers against righties to improve as the season progresses.

Smoak is a switch hitter.  He is 2-for-34 as a RHB with 1 extra base hit.  He has an OPS of .301.  That obviously is terrible in a small sample size.

Here are Justin Smoak's and Pedro Alvarez's numbers at AAA.  Smoak played 54 games in AAA last year and 15 this year.  Alvarez has played 50 games, all this year, going into today.

                PA      AB    H    2B  3B  HR    BB   K      AVG/OBP/SLG    OPS
Smoak     303     247    63   17    0      6      51     53      .255/.386/.397     .783

Alvarez    212    184    48     9     2    11     24     49      .261/.349/.511     .860

ESPN's Keith Law felt Smoak's ability to hit lefties was one reason that he rated him a better prospect.  Coming into the year Smoak's slash line against lefties in 130 at bats was .215/.304/.331.  Alvarez's minor league numbers against lefties are .258/.323/.411 in 209 career minor league at bats.  It will be very interesting to see how all three progress the rest of the year.

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