Rotation depth has been a problem for the Angels for what seems like forever, but things had been looking particularly dire headed into this year. Then, lo and behold, the Tigers saw fit to send Jose Alvarez on over to Anaheim. He’s hardly a savior but he is something… right?
*The MWAH projections are simply my best guess based off my own personal opinion and research (my wOBA calculation is approximate because my math skills are only “meh”)
What happened in 2013?
Alvarez has never been much of a prospect but he wasn’t exactly anonymous either. However, he really was elevated to relevancy when he dominated in Triple-A in 2013. He had some nice years in the low minors, but got bombed in Double-A in 2011. In 2012, he somewhat salvaged things in Double-A with a middling ERA, but had a microscopic 4.62 K/9 rate. So when he posted a 2.80 ERA with an 8.04 K/9 in his first Triple-A campaign, it was pretty shocking.
That great year got Alvarez promoted to the majors where he made six spots starts and eight relief appearances. He continued to miss a fair number of bats, but the control specialist saw his walk rate balloon and coughed seven homers in 38.2 innings, resulting in an ugly 5.92 ERA. That would certainly suggest that his Triple-A campaign was every bit the fluke that it seemed to be, but that might be overreacting to a pretty small sample of a guy in his first stint in the majors.
Whatever the case may be, the Tigers obviously weren’t all that enamored with Alvarez as they had no issue trading him for Andrew Romine, a guy who was due to be placed on waivers in the very near future anyway.
What do the projections think he will do in 2014?
Alvarez sets the new standard for inconsistent projection results. Steamer has Alvarez being a tolerable swing man. Oliver has him posting numbers that would make him a pretty solid #5 starter. ZiPS thinks he is an outright disaster. CAIRO has him being a Quad-A talent who will soak up innings, but not in a real helpful way.
They all agree that Alvarez is not likely to strikeout a lot of batters. Whatever he did to miss bats in 2013 apparently isn’t going to translate in 2014, so says the forecasts. The two main areas in which the projections seems to differ are his hits and homers allowed. ZiPS has him basically becoming a younger, Hispanic southpaw version of Joe Blanton in terms of how many homers and hits he will surrender. CAIRO, oddly, has him keeping homers at a tolerable level, but giving up a ton of hits otherwise. The two systems that like him still have him giving up more hits than you would like, but not a crippling about like ZiPS and CAIRO.
Does the Monkey agree or disagree?
On an overall level, I see him coming in more as a replacement level pitcher. He is effective against left-handed hitting, but not in the kind of way where he would be a real weapon out of the bullpen in terms of playing match-ups. Still, it is easy to envision him latching on as a swingman for a little while the Halos wait for their top lefty relievers to get healthy. The fact that he has length will certainly help as well, especially early in the season.
Beyond that, it is hard to project him just because of the lack of familiarity. One can only piece together so much of an opinion by examining stats and reading up on him in the various corners of the internet.
What are the known unknowns?
Alvarez himself is just an unknown, at least to the Angels fan base. Had he been a pitcher in the Halo system all along, I’d like to think we would have more insight into what exactly Alvarez did or did not change in order for him to pitch so well at Triple-A in 2013. Maybe he did nothing and just got very lucky. Maybe he added a new pitch or changed his delivery. We don’t know. Or at least I don’t.
The one thing that I do know about Alvarez is that the Tigers traded him for virtually nothing. That’s kind of concerning because Detroit obviously knew him best and they still felt like he could be traded for a player who was going to be virtually free in a week. Of even more concern is that the Tigers are one of the few teams in baseball with equivalent concerns over rotation depth and yet, again, they found Alvarez to be expendable. Maybe they were just desperate to get Romine and panicked (their subsequent trade for Alex Gonzalez lends credence to that theory), but maybe they knew they were trading away someone that they firmly believed didn’t have a future.
Finally, we don’t know when or if Alvarez will actually be on the active roster. Reading the tea leaves, I think he will be on the Opening Day roster. The real reason I chose to do a write-up on him though is that at some point the Angels are going to need a sixth starter and Alvarez is likely to get that call. So even if he doesn’t break camp with the team, I suspect we will see a lot of him in 2014 (but hopefully not too much).