Aceves fills a void

by Marc on February 9, 2011

in Red Sox

Photo courtesy of nydailynews.com

Alfredo Aceves isn’t a name you think of as a major acquisition–and don’t worry, I won’t try to convince you that he’s anything more than a useful pawn in the chess game that is the American League East–but in the context of the Red Sox current roster, he is a player who fills a need. Boston has an excellent lineup, a strong bullpen, and a quality defense in place. What they do not have is a rotation with any depth to it, and Aceves may help with that.

After Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, the Red Sox have a very talented but very iffy three through five in the rotation. Josh Beckett is either one of the better starters in the AL, or an injury-riddled hurler that can’t make it through the season without either missing time or pitching poorly through his aches and pains. John Lackey had a stronger second half in 2010, but there are reasons to be nervous about his ever earning his contract’s value. Daisuke Matsuzaka is a riddle wrapped in a mystery wrapped in a pitcher who can’t always find the strike zone, which is why you have seen suggestions that he be traded or sent to the bullpen. After that, the Sox have 43-year-old spot-starter Tim Wakefield, who has his own health concerns and isn’t a guarantee to produce over long stretches of time, and Felix Doubront, who has not finished developing in the minors yet, and is now the only Red Sox pitching prospect in the upper minors worth talking about.

There is room for Aceves, especially since he has options remaining. This means the Red Sox can pop him into the minors, or the bullpen, or into the rotation as a spot starter at will throughout the year without having to burn options on Doubront or any of their other players–if you  remember 2010 (I know, I try to block some of it out too) the Sox were sending players like Darnell McDonald, Daniel Nava, and others up and down constantly, and some of those players had to pass through waivers each time since they were out of options. With Aceves, they won’t have to play that game, which means good things for their roster when they don’t need that extra bullpen arm or another spot starter around.

He has his own health concerns of course–he has a bad back that has bothered him for parts of the last two seasons and caused him to miss 93 days of the 2010 campaign, and has had trouble with his shoulder as well–but if he can stay on the diamond, he may be a useful arm for Boston in whatever role they choose.

Friend of the Beacon and fellow Baseball Prospectus author R.J. Anderson covered Aceves today in a blog post, and uses Tom Tango’s “Rule of 17” to project Aceves’ numbers as a starter:

…where Aceves’ ERA goes up one run per nine innings pitched, his strikeout per plate appearances goes down 17 percent, his batting average on balls in play goes up .017 points, and his home runs per contacted plate appearance goes up 17 percent.

Anderson figures Aceves for a 4.16 ERA, strikeouts for 15.7 percent of his batters faced, and three times as many punch outs as free passes. Those numbers put him close to Dallas Braden’s 2010 season, which, Anderson admits, is an “optimistic” point of comparison. If the Red Sox got 80 percent of Dallas Braden as a spot starter when they needed it though–and were also able to use Aceves out of the pen if necessary–then for the money and the roster spot, Aceves is more than worth the risk.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark February 9, 2011 at 9:17 am

Terrific pickup. No risk, high upside. Another pitcher in the organization whose progress it should be interesting to follow this season.

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Matt February 9, 2011 at 12:29 pm

It’s interesting that the Yankees, given that they’re two pitchers short of a rotation, weren’t interested in bring Aceves back to New York. If, as you say Marc, he’s 80% of Dallas Braden, he’d fit pretty well into the back end of the Yankees rotation. Makes me think the Yankees know something we don’t. Either that or add this to the list of other things they didn’t do particularly well this off season.

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Marc February 9, 2011 at 12:36 pm

I wouldn’t go so far as to say he is capable of filling a rotation slot. There is a difference between a starter and a spot starter in my mind, and Aceves is very much the second of those. The Yankees already have a bunch of maybe-starters to fill the back-end plus some prospects they could promote by midseason. The Sox don’t have that luxury, though Aceves helps them with it a bit.

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Matt February 10, 2011 at 12:26 am

I guess I had a sort of Julian Tavarez model in my head. In the Yankees case wouldn’t 20 games worth of mediocre innings gobbling be worth the $1.5 million or so and a roster spot?

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