2012 Blue Jays: Henderson Alvarez, Aaron Laffey, Drew Hutchison, Kyle Drabek

21 02 2013

During his time with the Jays, Henderson Alvarez was praised for his almost otherworldly composure. Pitching the home opener at the tender age of 22 didn’t faze him in the slightest: he just kept throwing his fastball and slider down in the zone and hoping for the best. I wonder whether his calm may have hurt him a bit – he might have thrown strikes a bit too confidently, as opposing hitters dinged him for an impressive 29 home runs. By the end of the season, the general consensus was that he needed a third pitch; maybe he’ll find one far from the pennant race in Miami.

Baseball analysts often talk about the concept of a “replacement-level player”. The idea is that there is a certain minimum level of ability available for free, as there are a number of players who can do a sort of okay job if called upon. So if your team is playing somebody worse than a replacement-level player, your general manager isn’t doing his job properly. Aaron Laffey is pretty much the working definition of a replacement-level player. In 16 starts as a Blue Jay, he compiled a mediocre 4.56 ERA. But “mediocre” is better than “bad”. In 2012, Laffey was often the Jays’ least-bad option available. This year, hopefully, replacement-level starting pitchers will not be needed.

Of the two young starters whose arms exploded in 2012, Drew Hutchison showed the most potential. He had good strikeout and walk rates, and showed reasonable composure on the mound. Unfortunately, it will be a while before we see him again, and he needs to prove that he can handle a major-league workload without breaking down. Some pitchers can’t.

The other young starter, Kyle Drabek, had considerable difficulty throwing strikes yet again this year. He has considerable ability, but so do many pitchers in the minor leagues; when he recovers from surgery, he’ll need to prove that he can both throw strikes and pitch without getting hurt. So far, he hasn’t been able to do either.

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