Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Big Hairy Deal About Henderson

John Farrell certainly knows how to set the Jays' twittarazzi a-spin. An off-handed comment of the possibility of bringing minor league wunderkind Henderson Alvarez to the big leagues has ignited harmonizing choruses of "that's awesome" and "it's too soon".

Alvarez is still just 21, but has moved somewhat quickly through the system and shown growth throughout each step up the ladder. After what appeared to be a possible step backwards in high-A Dunedin in 2009 and 2010, Alvarez lowered his ERA and WHIP in the jump to Double-A New Hampshire and maintained a K/9 rate in the sixes (6.1 at A+, 6.6 at AA). He's also touching 100 mph and sitting at 93-97 mph with his fastball, and no less an expert than ESPN's Keith Law describes his repetoire as "plus fastball/plus changeup/fringy curveball", which he says is "still a mid-rotation or better starter in the long term".

Our take is that Alvarez is still going to be throwing pitches even if he's not in the big leagues. So if he's passing the tests at each level (and we take it as a given that he's not going to Las Vegas because why in the name of all that's good would you send a pitching prospect there to get his brains smashed in), then maybe you give him a look and see what he can do with big league hitters.

The distinction that we'd draw about this potential callup is that the Jays shouldn't call up Henderson simply because they've run out of arms. If they need to see the season through to the end with Jesse Litsch as their fifth starter, then so be it. But if they feel as though Alvarez is potentially ready and they have an open slot (more on that in a moment), then let him pitch.

Felix Hernandez pitched in the big leagues at 19. Neftali Feliz was 21 and Michael Pineda was 22 when they got their first taste. There's no need to hold a player back simply because it seems prudent to do so.

(And yes, that's the Gordie Dougie argument as well. But we're not sure that he had proven himself ready - gaudy PCL stats aside - until a fair time into this season.)

Lost Del V?
Jays starter Carlos Villaneuva looked less than stellar last night, and he's been kicked around recently, leaving floaty junk up up up in the zone. Now comes the word that he's headed for an MRI on his shoulder, which at the very least means that there's a health concern and in the worst case scenario means he'll never pitch again.

(Hey, what part of "worst case" don't you understand?)

Villaneuva reached 97.2 innings pitched last night after tossing 52.2 in 2010. Even if the MRI comes back with mostly positive news, the notion that Villaneuva might need to be shut down for several weeks or the balance of the schedule shouldn't be met with shock or dismay. His shutdown date was likely to come soon, we'd imagine.

(And if we're thinking a bit more deviously: An MRI creates the rationale for a DL stint which opens a roster slot. Into which a young and upcoming pitcher may slide in nicely.)


Gil Fisher said...

I like the idea of giving a pitching prospect who is breezing through the minors a glimpse of what he's in for at the major league level, even if he's not ready for the permanent promotion.

You have to keep options in mind, though, as pitchers seem to burn through them more so than hitters.

I think Henderson is due to hit the 40-man roster this offseason too. (We currently have 3 spots open, one of which will be taken by Dustin Lambchops is a few days.)

Tao of Stieb said...

Good point Gil. Controllability is a factor.

Although with the nature of pitchers (and apparently Alvarez has a violent motion), I'd be inclined to move the clock more quickly than with position players.

@NorthYorkJays said...

As Gil points out, Alvarez needs to be added to the 40 man roster anyway after the year. So as long as he stays up from the time of his callup to the end of the season (or gets sent down for less than 20 days) no option will be unnecessarily burned.

I don't understand where all this "controlability" stuff is now coming from. Didn't we all agree in the beginning of the season during the Lawrie discussions that AA locks up his pre-FA talent long before they become free agents and having the extra year in 2018 (or one less year of arb) isn't as important as we think? If these guys like Alvarez and Lawrie are good, they will get contracts like Escobar and Romero that render their service time moot.

BlueJaysAD said...

If I read him correctly, the point Gil was making was more about the fact that you want to protect options because pitchers have a tendency to have to be shuttled back and forth to the minors a couple times before they're in the bigs to stick. You're right about controlability though; AA has definitely shown a willingness to buy out those arb years up front if it gets him control through a few FA years.

The Ack said...

I stopped reading after "100 mph fastballs". I might have blacked out.

Tao of Stieb said...

That's how Michael Hutchence died.

gabriel said...

Let's not forget that an advantageous arbitration eligibility improves a player's anticipated earnings through the arb process, and so improves his negotiating position with the club for any buyout of arb years.

That's not to say arbitration eligibility should dictate how we promote players, but let's not pretend it doesn't matter if we're going to buy out our better players.

Anonymous said...

Following today’s game the TORONTO BLUE JAYS have selected the contract of 3B BRETT LAWRIE from Las Vegas (AAA), recalled LHP LUIS PEREZ from Las Vegas, placed RHP CARLOS VILLANUEVA on the 15-day disabled list with a right forearm strain and have optioned OF TRAVIS SNIDER to Las Vegas.

Amiable Misanthrope said...

Keep Alvarez down on the farm, until he transitions from a thrower to a pitcher. Nothing worse than getting a prospect to educate himself on his deficiencies in the majors.

Nothing wrong with giving him a cup of coffee, but he'd be better served in NH and their pursuit of playoff run etc.

By the by, Chad Jenkins - bust, back of the rotation detritus, or don't give up on him yet. I never had high expectations, so I'm not too sad if he gets packaged as part of future considerations for a trade for a vial of Verlander's DNA.

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