After not being tendered a contract by the Pittsburgh Pirates, and lingering on the market into spring training, first baseman Pedro Alvarez landed with the Baltimore Orioles last week. He’s in line to step in as the Orioles’ primary designated hitter, where his deficiencies defensively can easily be hidden.
From a fantasy baseball perspective, home runs drive Alvarez’s value. He has hit at least 27 home runs in three of the last four seasons, with only an injury-shortened 2014 campaign (18 home runs over 398 at-bats) as the exception, and he’s also driven in at least 77 runs in those same three seasons.
The move from Pittsburgh to Baltimore is great for Alvarez. Sporting News’ 2016 Ballpark Power Index has Camden Yards as the second-most hitter friendly park, while PNC Park is seventh-most pitcher friendly. The Orioles’ home park is good for left-handed power hitters in particular, as evidenced by Chris Davis’ recent efforts, so that’s another good mark in Alvarez’s corner.
If Alvarez still played third base, his fantasy value would be better compared to his position peers. But that ship has sailed, unless position eligibility rules in your league go back to 2014, and Alvarez is only eligible at first base (124 games in 2015) now.
With a career batting average of .203 against left-handers, ideally Alvarez would platoon. But he showed improvement against southpaws last season (.258 average, .712 OPS), so health-permitting there’s nothing standing between Alvarez and 500 at-bats for Baltimore this season.
Alvarez will only help fantasy owners in home runs and RBI, with some contribution in runs scored as well. He did have eight stolen bases in 2014, but that looks like a serious outlier that has no chance to be repeated.
With 30-40 home run potential in 2016, Alvarez is a good way to use a final draft pick or auction dollar in mixed leagues. In DFS play, he’ll be someone to target in home games when the Orioles face a vulnerable right-handed starter.