The Angels Unexpected Contributor Could be José Alvarez
With the additions of Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano to the Angels, few people are mentioning a player added last offseason, José Alvarez. In fact few people have ever mentioned Alvarez, even after he came over in the trade that sent Andrew Romine to the Detroit Tigers. Disappointingly, he missed the majority of last season after undergoing surgery to remove loose bodies from his elbow.
His ceiling has never been considered to be anywhere near the front of the rotation, but as Matt Shoemaker showed us this season, results are more important than projections. In 2013 Alvarez was awarded Detroit’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year when he compiled a season 2.78 ERA and 1.087 WHIP. He’s a 25 year-old left hander who simply has a feel for the game and how to get outs while limiting damage. He’s described as a finesse lefty who relies on a changeup and solid command to succeed, a combination many pitchers have made great careers out of.
His injury last season would be cause for alarm except for the fact that he returned to pitch in the Venezuelan Winter League. All he did there was show that he never lost a beat as evidenced by a 1.91 ERA in 56.2 innings. He was ready for the big leagues this past season and looks all the more ready this year. The Angels depth could mean a tough battle for him to beat out his stiffest competition in Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano as young Angels pitchers looking for time in Anaheim.
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If Alvarez is lost in the depth, he may find a way on the team as a lefty specialist or long man out of the bullpen with the ability to spot start when injuries arise. Scouting reports have pegged him as a likely middle reliever in the big leagues. With only one for sure lefty in the pen in Cesar Ramos, we may see Alvarez find a spot late in games as there is not much competition for the role. With a good spring training I would expect Alvarez to start as a long man out of the pen when the starters pitch counts are carefully managed.
Alvarez has never been a flashy prospect, but he has shrugged those analysts opinions off and thrown very effective ball thoughout his minor league and winter league career. Do not be surprised if he continues to fly under the radar while becoming a valuable producer on the big league roster this season.