Top prospect Pedro Alvarez could join Pirates as soon as tomorrow

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UPDATE: Sure enough, Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com reports that the Pirates will up Alvarez in time for Wednesday’s game.
Within the past three weeks the Pirates have called up prospects Neil Walker, Jose Tabata, and Brad Lincoln, and general manager Neil Huntington has indicated that Pedro Alvarez could join them in Pittsburgh as soon as this week. In fact, Conlin Dunlap of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports that Alvarez could be promoted as soon as tomorrow.
Alvarez was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 draft and has played exclusively third base in the minors, so the clock is ticking on Andy LaRoche’s days as a starter. LaRoche was once a top prospect himself, but his stock has steadily declined and he’s now 26 years old with a measly .231 AVG/.312 OBP/.347 SLG line in 1,148 plate appearances.
Had LaRoche shown more promise this year the Pirates might be less inclined to push Alvarez to the majors until the second half, but LaRoche is dangerously close to flat-out bust territory and Alvarez is crushing Triple-A pitching to the tune of .285/.370/.549. That mark in 64 games at Triple-A is essentially identical to his .288/.379/.535 line in 126 games between Single-A and Double-A last season, with Alvarez averaging 31 homers and 37 doubles per 500 at-bats.
High strikeout rates and so-so batting averages are concerns, but Alvarez has shown good plate discipline along with the excellent power and his left-handed bat should eventually slot in the middle of Pittsburgh’s lineup. Not only do the Pirates rank second-worst in the league with just 45 homers in 63 games this season, they haven’t had a 35-homer hitter since Jason Bay in 2006.

Video: Jake Arrieta hits a 465-foot home run off of Zack Greinke

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Jake Arrieta‘s bat is in midseason form already. The Cubs’ ace swatted a solo home run to center field off of Zack Greinke in Thursday afternoon’s Grapefruit League exhibition game, his first homer of the spring.

The blast went 465 feet, according to MLB.com’s Daren Willman.

Arrieta has hit two home runs in each of the past two seasons. Madison Bumgarner (eight) and Noah Syndergaard (four) are the only other pitchers to match or exceed his output in that department.

Greinke, meanwhile, is hoping to bounce back after a miserable 2016 season. He finished with an uncharacteristic 4.37 ERA in 26 starts in his first year with the Diamondbacks.

Luis Valbuena to miss four to six weeks with a strained right hamstring

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Angels first baseman Luis Valbuena will miss the next four to six weeks with a strained right hamstring, Pedro Moura of the Los Angeles Times reports.

Valbuena, 31, signed a two-year, $15 million contract with the Angels in January and was on track to get the lion’s share of the playing time at first base. While he’s out, however, C.J. Cron will handle first base on a regular basis. When Valbeuna returns, the two will likely form a platoon.

Last year with the Astros, Valbuena hit a solid .260/.357/.459 with 13 home runs and 40 RBI in 342 plate appearances.