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The Sports Daily > Firebrand AL
Whatever happened to Abe?

Abe Alvarez, drafted in the second round of the 2003 amateur draft, no longer seems to be in the plans of the Red Sox. Although technically still a member of the Red Sox, he seems to be a forgotten man and could very well be released or traded this off-season.
What a turn of events! What started off promising progressed to depressing in just two years.

APRIL 14, 2004: FIRE BRAND FIRST COVERS ABE
JUNE 3, 2004: COMMENTS FROM THOSE WHO KNEW ABE IN COLLEGE
JULY 22, 2004: ABE ALVAREZ’S MAJOR LEAGUE DEBUT
SEPTEMBER 11, 2004: BEST PITCHING PROSPECT RANKED BY FIRE BRAND (PAPELBON IS SECOND)
AUGUST 24, 2006: IAN THEODORIDIS MENTIONS THAT ABE’S CAREER HAS STALLED.

2006 was a lost season for Abe, as he was still chugging along in 2005, being named the Pawtucket Red Sox Pitcher of the Year. Here’s Alvarez’s career, thanks to SoxProspects.com:

year team level age w l era g gs ip hr k/bb
2002
Long Beach St.
Coll
19
12
3
2.74
17
17
102.0
5
3.30
2003
Long Beach St.
Coll
20
11
2
2.35
18
18
122.2
4
3.29
2003
Lowell
A
20
0
0
0.00
9
9
19.0
0
9.50
2004
Portland
AA
21
10
9
3.66
26
26
135.1
13
3.38
2004
Boston
MLB
21
0
1
9.00
1
1
5.0
2
0.40
2005
Pawtucket
AAA
22
11
6
4.85
26
26
144.2
17
3.52
2005
Boston
MLB
22
0
0
15.43
2
0
2.1
1
2006
Pawtucket
AAA
23
6
9
5.64
22
21
118.0
22
1.78
2006
Boston
MLB
23
0
0
12.00
1
0
3.0
2
1.00

In 2003, Alvarez gave up zero runs in his first nine starts, and then posted a 3.66 ERA for Double-A Portland in 2004 and made a summer debut for Boston, giving up five earned runs in five innings against Baltimore. In 2005 he met with some resistance in Triple-A and gave up enough runs to post a 4.85 ERA in 144.2 IP. He made two relief appearances that year for Boston, giving up four runs in 2.1 IP for an ERA of 15.43. In 2006,he struggled even more in Triple-A, getting a 5.64 ERA in 21 forgettable starts, and seeing his K/BB ratio plummet to 1.78 from 3.52 the previous year. How does a 23-year old do worse his second Triple-A go-round? You got me there, but that’s not all that happened in 2006. He was promoted to Boston at one point and then tossed for three innings of a relief appearance, giving up four runs for an ERA of 12.00. This means his major league career consists of 10.1 IP of an 11.32 ERA – not exactly scintillating.
Does Alvarez deserve to be released, as SoxProspects.com seem to think he will be (or traded)? I say no. I think that Alvarez, still only 24, has a long career out of him. He is a lefty in demand who just so happens to be a junkballer. History says that junkballers tend to bloom later and have longer careers. Prime candidate No. 1 is former Red Sox Jamie Moyer, still plugging away at age 44 with 216 total wins. A Red Sox in 1996, Moyer was 33 years old and on the verge of washing out, as he had had ten years in the majors by that point and established himself as a mediocre starter. (When you look up his statistics, please realize that while his 1986-1996 numbers look good, they look good because they’re in the scope of the 2006 age, where a 5.00 ERA can pass for a #2 starter.) He was moved to Seattle for outfielder Darren Bragg. 150 victories later, Moyer is fresh off signing a two-year contract extension with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Not every left-handed junkballer is Jamie Moyer, but there are enough examples that caused the Los Angeles Dodgers to trade for Mark Hendrickson. While Hendrickson was a colossal failure in Los Angeles and is currently in their doghouse, Hendrickson has been in the majors for five years and is entering his age-33 season and has had a Moyer-esque start to his career.
I think it would be a mistake to give up on Alvarez so quickly. Pitchers become pitchers by learning how to pitch. Before they learn how to pitch, they’re simply throwers. Despite Alvarez’s lack of a heater, he was able to throw enough successfully that he didn’t need to change anything. His struggles in the majors and his disastrous 2006 season are the first time he’s ever faced adversity. Are we simply going to give up and cast him off to the curb?
I say no. I say give Abe another chance.
The Red Sox have depth this year. They’ve taken last year’s struggles to heart, where if they only had depth, they would have at the very least stayed in the division race last year. (It’s completely escaping me what and where, but I read somewhere recently that the Red Sox would have finished thereabouts three games behind the Yankees if something specific about injuries to pitchers hadn’t happened. Take it with a grain of salt, because I don’t remember what and where.) This year, what is the depth? Well, limited to starting pitching only, here’s how I see the depth chart (not including injured Matt Clement):
Curt Schilling
Josh Beckett
Daisuke Matsuzaka
Tim Wakefield
Jonathan Papelbon
Kyle Snyder
Kason Gabbard
David Pauley
Abe Alvarez
Lenny DiNardo
Jon Lester
Clay Buchholz.
Alvarez is certainly low on the depth chart, but with a strong return to Triple-A, could vault up to right behind Kyle Snyder, or perhaps even past Snyder, but there is one major problem I have not mentioned: he’s out of options. That is probably the single most reason why Alvarez is disappearing in the plans for the Red Sox. Just don’t give up. Abe is only 24 and he may just have a long career in him.

Comments

  1. Evan,
    As most of us have observed, all too often, good pitchers are rushed to the major leagues before they are truly ready and they flame out , e.g., Craig Hansen, Meredith, ad nauseum.
    Don't know if we can say that about Alvarez but it would seem that a junkballer has to become really adept at setting batters up and using guile every bit as much as superb control to get batters out. Might it be that guys like Jamie Moyer and perhaps Alvarez simply have to pitch to get better?
    One thing you did not mention is that I believe Alvarez is blind in one eye. If that is correct, makes one wonder to what extent it affects him.
    The second thign you did not mention is… that giving yoru point about 'junk-ballers' not maturing until later in their career..and the point you made about options, just how many more years should the Sox, or any team, be patient with him?
    How much longer can the Red Sox protect him and keep him in their farm system before he can be tapped by another team or is a FA?

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  2. RH,
    That's a valid point. How long, indeed. I would give him at least, at the VERY least 2007 to show an improvement in Triple-A. If he can't recapture previous form, perhaps you let him go. But I think letting him go after 2006 without redemption in 2007 would be hasty.

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  3. Good news on the JD Drew front:
    KNBR in San Francisco reports that "the Red Sox and JD Drew have reached a resolution on his contract and the final details will be announced at a press conference tomorrow, at which the rightfielder will be formally introduced. No word on what the resolution is at this point, but previous signs indicate that it may involve some changes to the financial structure of the final 2 years of the contract".

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  4. Ah yes, Bruce Chen. remember he "busted" through in 2005? He's still young. He still has a chance at a Moyer career, especially since success is not a distant thing in the past for him anymore.

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  5. Maybe he had a breakthrough in 2005. Maybe he just got lucky in '05 and regressed to the norm in '06.
    Point being, not every soft-tossing lefty is Mr. Moyer. I like Abe, but it doesn't look good for you when you get roughed up at AAA. And if either Bruce Chen or Jamie Moyer is any indication of how Abe's career is going to go, he'll probably have to pass through about 6 more organizations before sticking anywhere.

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