Toronto Blue Jays

Fantasy Baseball Sleeper or Bust: Has Henderson Alvarez Become Overhyped?

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 27:  Starting pitcher Henderson Alvarez #37 of the Toronto Blue Jays delivers the ball against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field on September 27, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Eric StashinSenior Writer IMarch 18, 2012

There has been a lot of talk recently about Henderson Alvarez and how he could be a solid fantasy sleeper in 2012. I’ve seen it on multiple sites, and you can understand why he would be drawing attention after a solid Major League debut in 2011:

1 Win

63.2 Innings

3.53 ERA

1.13 WHIP

40 Strikeouts (5.65 K/9)

8 Walks (1.13 BB/9)

.281 BABIP

 

Those are impressive numbers, especially in the AL East. There is no doubting that the 21-year-old (he’ll turn 22 in April) boasts elite control, something that should go a long way in helping him to succeed. Over his minor league career, he posted a 1.66 BB/9, including a 1.74 BB/9 in 88.0 innings at Double-A (he has never pitched in Triple-A).

You couple that with an above-average groundball rate, as he posted a 53.5 percent mark in the Major Leagues and there is a lot working in his favor. 

As I always say, there are three things that we look for in a starting pitcher (well, you can make it four, as environment plays a major role):

  • Strikeouts
  • Control
  • Groundball Rate

While you can definitely be successful with two of the three, there are certain things that are going to limit your upside potential. If you simply can’t generate strikeouts, there could be major problems.  Alvarez showed in ’11 that he is lacking that skill. Considering his 6.50 K/9 in the minor leagues, there is no reason to think that it is anything but believable.

When you think of successful pitchers in the AL East, what pitchers come to mind (their 2011 K/9 is also listed)?

  • CC Sabathia: 8.72
  • David Price: 8.75
  • Jon Lester:  8.55
  • James Shields: 8.12
  • Ricky Romero: 7.12 (though, as the readers of Rotoprofessor know, I am not the biggest fan)

See a common trend? Obviously it’s impossible to say that Alvarez is going to be a complete flop based on his control alone. He is going to post a solid WHIP, at the very least (you would think under 1.25 is nearly a given).

However, even with that and a solid groundball rate, can anyone say for sure that the lineups of the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays aren’t going to be able to beat him up? If the strikeout rate didn’t cap his value alone, since he is not going to help you in the category at all, his environment knocks him down a few more pegs.

He obviously should not be written off, and I have ranked him No. 81 among starting pitchers. In deeper formats, he is well worth taking the risk and keeping your fingers crossed. My fear is, though, that with all the hype he has been getting of late his draft day position is quickly going to become inflated. So far that hasn’t been the case, with an ADP of 263.67 (according to Mock Draft Central), making him the 97th starting pitcher coming off the board.

Just don’t overly buy into the hype and begin to reach for him earlier and earlier. At his current spot, he is well worth drafting, but don’t push him any higher.

What are your thoughts of Alvarez? Is he a pitcher that you are willing to roll the dice on? Do you think he can excel in 2012?

Make sure to check out all of our 2012 rankings:

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