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August 10, 2011

Transaction Analysis Blog

Vizcaino, Darnell, and Alvarez Arrive

by R.J. Anderson

IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

TORONTO BLUE JAYS
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Toronto Blue Jays
Sent LHP Wil Ledezma outright to Triple-A Las Vegas. [8/9]
Purchased the contract of RHP Henderson Alvarez from Double-A New Hampshire. [8/9]

Alvarez will make his major league debut on Wednesday night, and it will mark the third level he has pitched at this season, joining two appearances in High-A and 15 in Double-A. The story with Alvarez is that he has good stuff but the results rarely match. Outside of an eight-game stretch as a teenager in the Dominican Summer League, Alvarez has never fanned more than seven batters per nine innings pitched. On the flip side, he has never struck out  fewer than six batters per nine innings pitched either. His strikeout-to-walk ratios have remained solid-to-good and his home run rates have always been in check too.

The diminutive righty averaged 95.6 miles per hour on his fastball in the Futures Game, and left Jeremy Greenhouse wondering why his quality stuff wasn’t racking up the strikeouts. Kevin Goldstein speculated in a chat that Alvarez tends to elevate his stuff, which could lead to some issues in the American League East. Otherwise, Alvarez tends to rack up groundballs and complements his fastball with a good changeup. For now, he will take the injured Carlos Villanueva’s rotation spot.

ATLANTA BRAVES
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Atlanta Braves
Released RHP Scott Proctor. [8/10]
Purchased the contract of RHP Arodys Vizcaino from Triple-A Gwinnett. [8/10]

Fredi Gonzalez has stated his desire to avoid overworking Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel this season, but that hasn’t stopped the pair from leading the league in appearances. Gonzalez has the unenviable choice late in close games between preserving his best relief arms and going all in to win the game at hand. Gonzalez often chooses the latter.

Swapping out Proctor for just about any reliever would be an upgrade—Joe Torre’s favorite option has been the worst pitcher in the Braves bullpen by most measure—but going from Proctor to Vizcaino could be more than going from horrific option to just intolerable option. Vizcaino, who won’t be able to legally drink with his teammates until mid-November, entered the season ranked as Atlanta’s fourth-best prospect. He is a short righty with a fastball he throws for strikes and a good breaking pitch, however he lacks a quality tertiary offering and has had issues with injuries; that’s a combination that leads to Bullpensville on a team loaded with rotation options.

In anticipation for a day like today, the Braves moved Vizcaino to the bullpen in Mississippi then promoted him to Triple-A for six games. In those six appearances, he complete seven innings, gave up a home run and six other hits, walked nobody, and struck out eight. Managers can be hesitant in handing the ball over to youth in tight spots, but Gonzalez should warm up to Vizcaino in a hurry once he sees what wonders of which the kid is capable.

SAN DIEGO PADRES
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San Diego Padres
Placed RHP Ernesto Frieri and 3B-S Chase Headley on the 15-day disabled list. [8/8]
Recalled LHP Wade LeBlanc from Triple-A Tucson. [8/8]
Purchased the contract of 3B-R James Darnell from Triple-A Tucson. [8/8]

Headley had been in the midst of his best offensive season as a major leaguer, but a broken pinky finger is going to cause him to miss some time. It’s difficult to say whether Headley’s gains are sustainable or not, because most of the improvement stems from increased success on batted balls. He has walked more frequently, but the tale of the tape is a batting average over .290, whereas his previous career-high was .269.

Somewhat fittingly, Darnell’s top PECOTA comparison entering this season was, you guessed it, Headley. The Padres chose to give Darnell nearly as many starts in the outfield as third base in Tucson, and his experience at the hot corner should come in handy. Worth noting is that Darnell has hit for more power in 2011 than he did in 2010 (he raised his Double-A ISO from .142 to .271), and that breakout of sorts led Jason Parks to write this about him last week:

He is a good-but-not-great hitter with a mature approach, good bat speed, and some pop. Darnell’s Double-A numbers painted him as a plus-plus hitter with substantial game power, and as a result, some were calling out his name in the throes of prospect passion. But the reality is that Darnell grades out as an average hitter at best, with enough strength in his swing to produce solid-average power numbers at the major-league level. That’s a nice player to have on the roster, but not a first-division type, and not a player that needs to be included in the throes of your passion.   

As for LeBlanc, he started on Tuesday night versus the Mets. It was his fifth major league start of the season and arguably his most successful, as he went six innings and allowed two earned runs while striking out five. Oddly, LeBlanc had given up exactly three runs in each of his other four starts, even with varying inning totals. He figures to get a few more opportunities to give up three runs with Clayton Richard and Dustin Moseley likely out for the season.


R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here

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