Abe Alvarez?

Abe Alvarez
Abe Alvarez
There has been discussion on the Red Sox forum, Wicked East Coast whether or not Abe Alvarez should be/have been called up instead of Frank Castillo. The talk started when Sox Nation CA Chapter said that “instead of hoping that someone can hit 4.55 (at best), why not give a kid a chance?”
Sam Killay replied with saying that “the only “kid” we have, as far as I know, who might be ready to relieve at the big-league level is Anastacio Martinez. The Sox had a look at him in ST and must have decided he’s still too raw. Other than that, who is there?”
Meade26 then brought up Abe Alvarez, saying that “…the Red Sox [should] bring up Abe Alvarez, a pitcher they got in the first round or second last year. I believe he pitched at Long Beach State last year so he definitely knows how to pitch to good hitters (in college at least). He is a lefty and has some nasty stuff. I believe Bobby Crosby or someone else on the A’s said that while in college this guy was unbelievable. Though I’d rather have this guy remain as a starter, it would be nice to have another lefty out of the bullpen. Even Gammons mentioned something about this guy’s potential (even though I believe Gammons is suspect at times). I dunno, just an idea…he probably wouldnt be any worse than Bobby Jones.”
Burn Factor (me) quickly tried to shoot it down, stating that the “man is 21 and we need him to develop as a starter.”
Meade26 fired back, saying that “he may be 21…but I think he is close to making the major league level. College pitchers seem to adjust to the MLB pretty quickly, obviously a lot of people think this. Bring him up for a few games…it’s not like he has to stay all year, just until we get some guys off the DL. He could be a nice guy out of the bullpen and when they do get some guys back (Mendoza, Kim, and whoever else) then send him back down to work on starting. They need to win ball games…they should do whatever it takes…if Alvarez is their best option (maybe he isn’t) then why not take a chance on him. I honestly don’t think coming out of the bullpen will (mess) up his chances of becoming a starter (especially if he stays only a few games).”
Sam Killay continues the discussion, saying that “…when we got him, he was rated “the most major league ready” of all pitchers in the 2003 draft. Is he THAT major league ready? Or, from another point of view, do we need him THAT badly already? I don’t think a cup of coffee is going to hurt his SP potential down the road. Just the reverse, if anything.”
Abe Alvarez is 21, out of Long Beach State, and his scouting report on SoxProspects.com states that Alvarez is a “tall and lanky lefty. Has been compared to Orel Hershiser. Changes speeds well and hits his spots with consistency. Fastball isn’t fantastic, topping out in the mid to high 80s, but throws all of his pitches with pinpoint control. Best changeup and command in the Sox farm system. Curveball needs some work.”
At Baseball America, it is shown that Abe Alvarez is at Portland – that’s AA, higher than David Murphy. Why is he this high? Why, because he has impressed everyone so far. Jim Callis via AtThePlate.com says:

Would I project him to become a No. 3 starter? Not yet. Can he become that? Yes, that’s his ceiling. It will be very interesting to see how Alvarez does in his first full season. The Red Sox absolutely love this guy, and one official told me that his fastball may be the best in the system despite its 85-88 mph velocity because he has nearly perfect command of it. They think his fastball will play as a plus pitch and he’ll have two other solid average pitches (changeup, curveball) to go with it, and he’ll move very fast.

Abe Alvarez continued that impression at Spring Training, throwing three innings, allowing two hits and no runs, wowing everyone with his command.
So why, indeed, did Alvarez not make the Red Sox? Sure, his age was a factor, but let’s have you look up earlier in this column and find the ‘Baseball America’ link. Click on it, and find Abe Alvarez at the Portland Sea Dogs. What do you notice?
Well (as of press time, anyways), Abe Alvarez has made one start, and has a 11.25 ERA in 4.0 IP. That, ladies is gentlemen, is why Alvarez is not being called up. Apparently he got through the first four innings fine, but in the start of the fifth, gave up four runs with zero strike outs in the entire outing. 4 IP 6 H 5 ER 3 BB 0 K.
Abe Alvarez is 21, and should not be called up. He is a starter, and there is no reason to waste an option year on him, when we can use it in the future. He has been hit hard in AA, and should not progress this quickly, only up to the majors to burn one option year and to give us, what, 2 innings before heading back down? If you’re confused on what an option is, the following is from BrewerFan.net:

Generally, after three (3) professional seasons, a the club then has three (3) available option years during which they can place him on “optional assignment” to a minor league club. A player can be sent up and down as many times as the club so chooses within those three seasons. If a player is not sent to the minors during a year, an option is NOT used. Once a player is “out of options”, he must clear “waivers” in order to be sent down again.

Let’s hold off on the Abe era. Let’s start it in late 2005, when SoxProspects projects he will come up, at age 22. Alvarez is a lefty … he’s 21 this year, will be 22 next year (his birthday is October 17, 1982) … he is a true gem and we must protect him accordingly until we feel he is ready to unleash his great lefty powers on the AL hitters (and NL hitters in the World Series) for decades to come.