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2012 Sleeper Alert: Henderson Alvarez

The 21 year old Venezuelan right-hander made his debut for the Jays back in August of 2011.  Alvarez, who skipped AAA entirely, did very well in his first big league opportunity, and he would be a great addition to any fantasy staff as #4 or #5 starter.  Currently, his average draft position (ADP) is 258.50 according to 343 qualifying drafts at Mockdraftcentral.com and he is only being drafted in 8.2% of leagues.  After looking at his profile, I believe he can vastly out perform his draft position and be a viable source for low ERA, QS, and an overall consistent performer.

In 2011, Alvarez pitched to the tune of 3.53 ERA, 1-3 record, with 40K’s in 63.2 innings pitched.  While that stat line by its self isn’t all that impressive, it is the underlying numbers that tell the better story of his 2011 debut, and what we can expect going forward.  Although Alvarez doesn’t strike out many at the plate (5.65K/9 in 2011), he boasts an impressive 5.00K/BB ratio.  He only walked 8 batters out of 259 batters faced (3%) in 2011.  This trend dates all the way back to his minor league career (2008-2011). In fact, throughout his minor league career he averaged 1.5BB/9IP.  Alvarez’s walk rate (1.13BB/9 in 2011) is what some of the elite pitchers in the league are throwing (Halladay 1.35BB/9, Lee 1.62BB/9, and Haren 1.25BB/9).  Another great aspect to Alvarez’s game, is his GB ratio of 53.5%.  GB ratio is one the best indicators of pitchers success.  If a pitcher can keep more balls on the ground, that translates to more outs while on the mound.  The only negative that I found while looking at his stat sheet was his inflated HR/FB% (15.1%), but there is nothing in his minor league profile that suggest that this is a trend.  For example, in 2009 in 124.1IP he gave up 1 HR.  I fully expect that HR/FB ration to come down closer to the league average rate of 9.7%.  And anyways, what’s it matter, if he is giving up HR’s, chances are they are solo shots due to his incredible walk rate and GB% and that is indicated by his 2011 stats, 6 of the 8 home runs he gave up were solo shots.

If Alvarez can get his strike outs per nine up to 6.0-6.5K/9 range (minor league avg. of 6.11K/9) to go along with the great walk rate and GB%, we are looking at a very good low cost option for the 2012 season and beyond.   In a standard 12 team league, I would definitely recommend taking a late round flyer on a pitcher that has this many good things going for him.  For you dynasty leaguers, I would suggest that you either draft him earlier than others would or inquire via trade what the cost for his services would be.  Because at age 21, you’re gonna want to lock this righty down for long term.  In 2012, I predict 11W-8L, 3.65ERA, 108K’s, 22BB with 21QS in 160.2IP, not bad for your fifth starter.

Aaron Price, follow me on twitter @baseballrantman