|Image courtesy of Daylife via AP|
The Toronto Blue Jays starting rotation has had its fair share of candidates throughout the season, but one of the frontrunners for the 2012 pitching staff might be right under their nose: Henderson Alvarez.
Coming off another strong start last night, Alvarez has very quietly put together a very impressive rookie campaign. I would dare even say impressive enough to earn him a spot in the starting rotation next season.
We saw how Kyle Drabek floundered the big league level earlier this year, and yet Henderson Alvarez miraculously made the transition from AA New Hampshire to the Major Leagues without so much as a hiccup.
Perhaps the most encouraging news about Henderson Alvarez was his ability to go at least five innings in all 10 of his starts this year. For John Farrell to know he can depend on his young starter to go at least five innings is huge.
Also, Alvarez’ ability to keep his walks down has been paramount; in 63.2 innings of work, Henderson Alvarez has only walked eight batters total. Just as a comparison, Kyle Drabek walked six batters in one start on May 16th.
Even though his fastball has been clocked in 97 MPH, surprisingly Henderson doesn’t miss very many bats inside the strike zone (90.6%) or outside the zone for that matter (76%).
For a pitcher who predominantly throws fastballs, Alvarez keeps the ball on the ground and out of the air for the most part. That 53.5% ground ball rate explains why he’s been able to go five innings or more in all his starts.
If Henderson Alvarez can continue to develop his slider as John Farrell is hoping he will, then that could become a very effective out pitch, much like it has become for Brandon Morrow.
With other starters like Brett Cecil and Kyle Drabek earlier the season, you never know what might happen. Henderson Alvarez on the other hand, has remained remarkably consistent since his debut on August 10th.
It’s pretty early to start making predictions for next season already, but I think he’ll definitely be a mainstay in the starting rotation come 2012. Pencil him in as the Blue Jays fourth starter, maybe even as high as the number three starter.
Next to the bullpen, undoubtedly the starting rotation is the area that needs the most attention in the offseason. I’m not sure whether Alex Anthopoulos will plug those holes via free agency, trade, or promotion from within, but with Henderson Alvarez in their back pocket, at least that’s one less starter they’ll have to worry about.
Data courtesy of Henderson Alvarez’ FanGraphs page