The Jays signed Henderson Alavarez as an international FA in August of 2006 out of Venezuela. Along with fellow Venezuelan Adonys Cardona, he provides the Jays with very high ceilinged promise for the future of the rotation and is extremely close to making himself the “next in line” for a call-up to Toronto due to his dominance so far in 2011. We ranked Alvarez as the 13th best Jays prospect during the off-season, and you can read what we gathered on him at that time here.
One thing that you’ll notice from the profile Jared MacDonald wrote on him at the time was that he was listed at 6’0″ 190 lbs at 20 years of age. Now 21, Alvarez is listed at 6’1″ 195 lbs, something that can help explain a small part of his suddenly impressive gain in velocity on the mound. The change up will always be a key to his success since it is his best plus pitch, but when armed with a 96-98 MPH fastball, that pitch also plays up more than ever.
As listed in a Baseball America article:
”Fisher Cats pitching coach Pete Walker said Alvarez has touched 101 mph this year and sits at 96-100, a significant improvement from the 92-94 he was throwing in high Class A Dunedin last season. He has a 98 mph fastball with depth,” Walker said. “It’s pretty fun to watch. Standing behind him in the bullpen watching his stuff, you know it’s special.”
The same article also mentions that he was held back after spring training due to “arm soreness” and that his fastball now has “devastating sink”, inducing more groundouts. Even if he isn’t racking up the Ks, Alvarez is being more than effective enough with that sinker. As Roy Halladay showed Jays fans for a long period of time, getting outs is what pitching is all about, not racking up Ks. If Alvarez can be efficient due to his groundout effectiveness, which also helps induce more double-plays, the Jays could inherit a pitcher that will go deep into games and allow the pen to remain fresh, something they’ve desperately needed this season.
The Jays are said to be working on getting his curveball and slider to become major league level pitches. Pete Walker seemed to hint that once they’re happy with the progress of either of those pitches, or both, he will be “ready to pitch in the majors and have a lot of success.” Whether or not they’d be willing to give him a shot before those secondary pitches are polished is unknown, but if he keeps up his early success in 2011, he could push his way to the majors as early as August or September.
What has he done thus far in New Hampshire?
4-2 / 7 GS / 2.30 ERA / 43 IP / 32 hits / 9 BB / 27 Ks / .209 Average Against
If we take out his one bad start in AA so far….when he allowed 5 ER in 4.1 IP, we get the following stats:
4-1 / 6 GS / 1.08 ERA / 38.2 IP / 25 hits / 7 BB / 24 Ks / .215 AA
Some other interesting stats:
- RHB are only hitting .171 against him in AA.
- He has a 1.30 ERA at home.
- He has only allowed a .164 average while runners are on base.
Alvarez will represent the World Team in the upcoming Futures Game, joining other high-end prospects such as Julio Teheran (ATL) and Carlos Martinez (STL). He is quickly making a name for himself as a possible addition to the Jays rotation, and could soon surpass all others as the next-in-line to get that yearned for shot in The Show. Although I doubt the Jays want to rush him to the majors, seeing Alvarez in a Jays uniform at some point in September, in the same way that Kyle Drabek was called up in 2010, seems to be a possibility.
The possibility of Alvarez joining the likes of Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, and others as part of the 2012 rotation seems very real, and we should all be very excited to see what he can do once he arrives.
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