||Born: April 13, 1983
Height: 5′ 11″
Drafted: 8th Round, 241st Overall, 2005
How Acquired: Draft
College: University of South Carolina
WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES
|In college, Pearce hit for considerable power, especially for a relatively small 1B. He also made very good contact. The Red Sox drafted him in round 10 in 2004 but didn’t sign him. He’s had an up-and-down history with the Pirates, breaking out as possibly the best hitter in the minors in 2007, but never getting himself established in the majors. Part of this has been due to the Pirates’ unwillingness to give him a spot and leave him in it, as they’ve never really believed he’d hit major league pitching. Scouts have never liked him much, as he has an unorthodox approach at the plate, starting into his swing early in an effort to add power to it. He also tends to try to pull everything. This has led to doubts about his ability to hit offspeed stuff, with some justification. He doesn’t look especially athletic, but he runs better than you’d think and is a good baserunner. He’s also a solid defensive firstbaseman, although he’s handicapped a little by his height. Due to Adam LaRoche’s presence in Pittsburgh, he began playing a lot in rightfield in 2007-09. That never worked out, because he doesn’t judge flyballs well, although he has a good arm. Pearce has had large platoon splits in his limited major league career–an .829 OPS against LHPs and .580 against RHPs–raising the prospect of him being a good platoon player, but the Pirates have never tried it.
Had the best debut of the Pirates’ numerous college draftees. Very high doubles total at Williamsport suggested more power potential.
Pearce lit up the SAL, with 26 extra base hits in just 41 games. That led to a May promotion. He didn’t do as well at Lynchburg, but still had a high extra base hit total. He finished strongly, having easily his best month in August. He had a strong platoon split at Lynchburg. His plate discipline wasn’t quite as good.
Pearce opened at Lynchburg, which seemed to show the Pirates didn’t regard him as much of a prospect. Nevertheless, he went on a HR spree, hitting 11 in just 19 games, that forced an early promotion to AA. He was easily the best hitter in the Eastern League during his stay there, earning another promotion in late July. Pearce continued to batter AAA pitchers and did well in a September callup. Considering that he was the hottest hitter in the minors all year, you’d think he’d have been inserted into the lineup, but Jim Tracy plainly had no use for him and played Pearce only when injuries forced him to do so. For the season in the minors Pearce totaled 40 doubles, four triples, 31 HRs and 113 RBIs. He also struck out only once every eight ABs.
Pearce hit for more power in spring training than any other player on the team, but the Pirates sent him back to AAA anyway. The new management made it clear they didn’t think he can handle offspeed pitches well enough to hit major league pitching. They seemed to have a point, as he struggled throughout his second stint in AAA and also in the majors. The Pirates called him up in late July, but started him only sporadically, as he got just 109 ABs. He played right the majority of the time in the minors and almost all the time in the majors, and struggled tracking flyballs. The team sent him to play winter ball in Mexico after the season. The pitching there is heavily slanted toward offspeed stuff and Pearce struggled.
Got off to a slow start in AAA. In May, he started hitting and continued to improve in the following two months. The Pirates called him up temporarily in late June, but hardly played him at all and sent him back down in early July. He came back to the majors late in the month, when LaRoche was traded, and the team announced he’d finally get an extended opportunity at first. He hit reasonably well in August (254/321/423), but collapsed in September, hitting 120/254/220. By the end of the month, Brandon Moss had returned to playing right regularly against RHPs with Garrett Jones moving to first. Pearce struck out in over a quarter of his ABs in the majors, which was uncharacteristically bad, in spite of the fact that he had a much-improved K:BB ratio in AAA.
Pearce had one option left going into 2010 and the Pirates used it at the end of spring training, as they chose to go with Jeff Clement at first and Rule 5 pick John Raynor on the bench. He got off to a big start at Indianapolis. He evidently sacrificed some HR power in order to hold back more on pitches, as he hit only three HRs in 35 games, but he had a much higher walk rate than in the past. The Pirates returned Raynor to Florida in late April and eventually brought Pearce up. He got only sporadic playing time while the team continued to try to get Jeff Clement untracked, but showed improved patience when he got to play. His big opportunity came when the Pirates finally sent Clement down, but right before that he went on the DL with an ankle sprain. While on rehab assignment, he aggravated an existing knee injury and needed season-ending surgery. He ended up playing in only 15 games for the Pirates.
Pearce was out of options going into 2011, but he appeared destined for AAA when the Pirates were granted a fourth option for him. Instead, he had a strong spring and beat out several veterans–Andy Marte, Garrett Atkins and Josh Fields–for a right-handed bench spot. He even started getting some time at thirdbase, which he’d played in college but only a few times in the minors. He played sparingly at first, but when he started hitting decently, while almost nobody on the team was hitting anything at all, Clint Hurdle started playing him more. By the end of May, he was hitting 291/339/382, which wasn’t exactly awe-inspiring but which made him one of the Pirates’ 3-4 best hitters. He was starting games at third in place of the injured Pedro Alvarez and was more or less holding his own there. Unfortunately, he went on the DL with a partial tear in a calf muscle. The timing was especially bad because, apart from Alvarez’ problems, the Pirates were suffering from their disastrous decision to sign Lyle Overbay and badly needed another option, especially a right-handed one, at first. After Pearce returned from rehab in late July, he completely stopped hitting. He went 3-for-39 with ten Ks and no extra base hits, leaving him with a .515 OPS for his time in the majors. In late August he went out for the year with a broken finger.
Pearce’s window of opportunity finally closed, at least where the Pirates are concerned. They outrighted him to AAA after the season. His career seems to have been snake-bitten from the time he first reached the majors, between the addled personnel decisions of Jim Tracy, the Pirates’ long reluctance to consider platoons, Pearce’s own struggles with his approach at the plate, and finally the injuries that hit every time an opportunity at the major league level opened up. He’ll turn 29 early in the 2012 season and has yet to show he can hit major league pitching on any sustained basis. On top of everything else, Pearce was eligible for arbitration. He’ll probably elect free agency and try another organization.
|2011: League Minimum
|Signing Bonus: $40,000
MiLB Debut: 2005
MLB Debut: 9/1/2007
MLB FA Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: 9/1/2007
Options Remaining: 0 (USED: 2008, 2009, 2010)
MLB Service Time: 2.165
|June 7, 2004: Drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 10th round, 305th overall pick.
June 7, 2005: Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 8th round, 241st overall pick; signed on June 11.
September 1, 2007: Contract purchased by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
October 31, 2011: Outrighted to AAA by the Pittsburgh Pirates.