The Angels can clinch the AL West tonight if they beat the Yankees and Mariners beat the Rangers, but from the Yankees' perspective, the big story is Alfredo Aceves, who will make his first major league start. A 25-year-old Mexican League product, Aceves is in his seventh year of pro ball, but his first in the U.S. He started the year with high-A Tampa, where he posted a 2.11 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, and 4.63 K/BB in eight starts before being promoted to double-A Trenton, where he posted a 1.88 ERA, a 0.86 WHIP, and a 5.83 K/BB in seven starts.
Aceves was promoted again at the end of June, this time to triple-A Sranton, but a groin injury delayed his first triple-A start. After four abbreviated rehab appearances for Scranton, Aceves returned to his normal starting role, but with less success than he'd had at the lower levels. Aceves' first four post-rehab starts saw him allow 16 runs in 20 2/3 innings, but he seemed to make the necessary adjustments from there, posting this combined line in his last two triple-A starts before being called up to the majors: 12 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 5 BB, 16 K. In two major league relief appearances thus far, Aceves has been similarly effective: 7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 7 K.
Here's a note from Chad Jennings following those final two starts for Scranton:
After his last start . . . Aceves was talking about using his body more to generate a little more velocity on his fastball. There was in fact a little more velocity last time and this time, but Aceves said he has looked at tape of his last start and no longer thinks he's doing anything mechanically different. It just felt that way. The key for him is working faster, getting himself in a groove and not thinking about things too much. He picks the pitch he wants to throw, and he throws it. The game moves faster and he works a lot better.
Earlier in the year, less enthusiastic scouts dismissed Aceves as a strike-throwing junkballer who lacks an out-pitch and tops out as a number-five starter in the majors, but I was at his major league debut, and the Yankee Stadium scoreboard was registering his fastball at 94 to 95 mph. That's likely an inflated number, but there was definitely some zip on his heater, and he complimented it well with his secondary pitches.
He's a guy that's going to have no patterns when he pitches. He's got four pitches that he commands real well, and he can throw them at any time in the count. That's a definite talent to have. He kind of makes my job a little easier because he's got a really good gameplan, and he really knows himself well. He does a good job on his own of trying to set up hitters, so it's different and kind of refreshing, almost, to work with someone like that who's thinking about the game along the same lines I am.
He's got a really good cutter. What makes it so successful, is it's not a lot different in speed off of his fastball. It's pretty similar in miles per hour to his four-seam fastball. His cutter's a good pitch, and when you have command of a pitch like that and you can throw it when you're behind in the count, it can really bail you out of some stuff. Him being able to throw it on both sides of the plate is a definite plus for him.
Because he came on so fast and seemingly out of nowhere, it's hard to say what the Yankees have in Aceves, but with a few good starts in these dog days of September, he could throw his hat in the ring for next year's rotation.