The Toronto Blue Jays today promoted 21 year old flame thrower Henderson Alvarez from the Double A New Hampshire Fisher Cats all the way to the big league roster, with the expectation that he will make his MLB debut tomorrow night with a start against the Oakland A’s.
Alvarez, originally thought of as more of a control and command pitching prospect, has emerged this season with drastic increases in his velocity, reportedly touching as high as 101 mph with his four seam fastball. He’s also said to posses a plus change up and a breaking pitch that still needs time to develop.
There’s been some concern with his relatively low strikeout rate at Double A, but as the heavily bearded Andrew Stoeten pointed out at DJF, it’s been improving over time. Still, a belief persists that the young pitcher doesn’t miss a lot of bats for someone throwing with such heat:
Kevin Goldstein, from a recent Baseball Prospectus chat:
I talk to scouts to see if the pitch is straight and/or if they are relying on the pitch too much. Alvarez needs to improve his breaking ball, and has a tendency to elevate, thus the lack of missed bats.
That doesn’t sound too promising.
Maybe the always hopeful Keith Law can justify Alvarez’s seemingly quick call up after seeing the young right hander perform at the MLB Futures Game:
Henderson Alvarez was 93-97 mph with a fringy curveball that had good two-plane break but lacked tight rotation; he didn’t show the plus changeup but located the fastball well. There’s some effort there, but he loads his hips to the point where the hitter can see the Z in “Alvarez” and he also generates tremendous torque to get his arm accelerated. I don’t know why he doesn’t miss more bats, but plus fastball/plus changeup/fringy curveball is still a mid-rotation or better starter in the long term.
So, the Blue Jays just called up a 21 year old pitcher who throws straight fastballs up in the zone, possesses a fringy breaking ball and might have some mechanical issues?
Having never seen Alvarez pitch and only able to look at a limited number of statistics from his Minor League starts, I’m going by consensus from the scouting types and what information I do have available to be less than convinced about this being the type of pitcher you want to put on the active roster without maybe giving him the benefit of more time down on the farm, developing a little bit further before calling up.
Look at what the Tampa Bay Rays are doing with their dominant pitching prospect Matt Moore who not only demolished Double A batters with his three plus pitches, but has now built on that dominance in Triple A where he’s striking out 42.4% of the batters he’s faced. Moore is ten months older than Alvarez, has better stuff, is more fully formed and has found more success at the Minor League level, and yet the Rays, an organization known for its cautiousness with pitching prospects, aren’t likely to call him up this season at all.
Wouldn’t it make more sense for a former position player who still hasn’t grown into the pitcher he’ll become to get every opportunity to develop into that future hurler before being brought up? Didn’t the Blue Jays justify the demotion of Travis Snider earlier this season by suggesting that Major League Baseball isn’t the level at which players work on things?
I understand that with Carlos Villanueva on the Disabled List, the team needs a starter on Wednesday, but calling up Alvarez at this point seems shortsighted at best and detrimental at worst.