With Carlos Villanueva now on the 15-day DL, there is a vacancy in the rotation although no date has been set for Alvarez's debut.
Only 21 years old, the hard-throwing righty has blazed through five levels of minor league ball since starting his career in the Dominican Summer League as a pimple faced (I assume) seventeen year old in 2007. Blessed with pin point control and a blistering fastball that can hit 101 mph, Alvarez has been dominating Double A.
In 88 innings pitched, Alvarez is 8-4 with a slash line of 2.86/1.114 to go along with a minuscule 17 walks. His fastball has been gaining velocity over the course his minor league career and now sits in the 94-97 mph range. However, its his change-up that has Blue Jays management salivating as it is already the best in the entire system including the big club.
There has been some buzz lately about Alvarez taking over as the team's closer considering his heat and ground ball ratio. This is nonsense. Why take a dominating minor league starter and throw him in the bullpen? With an ever improving slider, Alvarez has the makeup of a front of the rotation hurler. As such it makes little sense to waste that potential as a reliever.
As exciting as this development is, I can't help but think about 2012 Spring Training when Kyle Drabek, Joel Carreno and possibly Deck McGuire all make their case to join Toronto's rotation. With so many assets on the mound close to being ready it seems inevitable that the team moves some pieces to help in other areas.
When you add this to the emergence of JP Arencibia and Eric Thames and the titillating debut of The Great Canadian Hope, Brett Lawrie, the 2011 season may be the most exciting non-playoff year for Toronto in decades.
The roster decisions made this season as well as those to come over the next six months could prove to be the tipping point that returns Toronto to the top of the American League. A lofty position we haven't held in these parts since the early 1990's.
What are your thoughts? Is the call up of Alvarez just one more step in the right direction of an emerging World Series contender? Or is this just a losing team giving a prospect a taste?
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