The Enigma of Carlos Carrasco

Posted by Ben Seal, Wed, June 24, 2009 09:20 AM | Comments: 33
Minor Leagues, Posts, Prospecting

Carlos CarrascoIt was mid-February, just four months removed from a World Series parade, and pitchers and catchers were reporting to Clearwater. The usual suspects would be in attendance, but there was one exciting addition to the Phillies spring training roster. Carlos Carrasco, the top pitching prospect in the system for the past three years, had his shot to head north with the big club once the season began.

It is now four months later, the dog days of summer baseball are nipping at the Phillies heels, and Carrasco is no closer to the major leagues than he was in February. In fact, he might even have distanced himself from the opportunity to pitch in 2009.

Though the Venezuelan hurler is young – he turned 22 during spring training – it seems he has been at the forefront of the farm system for as long as Cole Hamels has been the ace. There have been glimpses along the way of his potential brilliance on the mound. Carrasco’s hot stretches at all levels are as impressive a minor league display as can be. But between the five- or six-start patches of excellence, Carrasco’s inconsistency bogs him down, relegating his great changeup to wow fans in Lehigh Valley rather than Philadelphia.

The Stuff

Carrasco works off of three pitches, all of them capable of helping him in the major leagues.

His fastball ranges in speed, generally sitting in the 92-93 range, a touch faster than Cole Hamels, and occasionally bumping up to 94-95 when he reaches back for something extra. Without much life on the fastball, it is really just a pitch to establish the count and work off when throwing his curveball and changeup.

The curveball – which has been a slider at times but rolls in too slowly to carry enough slice to function as a true slider – is still a work in progress. When he uses it as a low-70s curve it becomes hittable, but when he can get it up closer to 80 mph with late life, it is a top-notch pitch. This, however, is rare. Brett Myers taught him to use a four-seam grip rather than his usual two-seam grip in spring training, so it’s fair to assume that he’s still working things out. That should give it enough bite to work as a strong slider and a second out pitch if he perfects it.

Carrasco’s changeup, the best in the organization as rated by Baseball America (so is his fastball), is the pitch that might put him in a major league rotation next season. It comes in about 10-12 mph slower than his fastball, and drops off the table late. After Cole Hamels and Ryan Madson, Carrasco’s changeup would likely be the best on the Phillies right now.

Projecting the Prospect

Carrasco is an enigma in every sense. He has had three great stretches over the past three years, posting a 2.26 ERA in Lakewood in ’06, a 2.84 ERA in Clearwater for part of ’07 and a 1.72 ERA in six starts last year for Lehigh Valley. His ERA also sat at 4.86 during the second half of ’07 in Reading, 4.32 to start ’08 with the R-Phils and is 5.20 with the Iron Pigs this year.

It would be impossible to say with any certainty, based on these numbers, that Carrasco will succeed or fail at the major league level. He has the arm, that has never been a question; but how he uses it will determine when he ultimately arrives, and how long he stays.

The organization clearly feels that he is not yet prepared to pitch at the big league level, as they have passed him up several times when a promotion was on the table. Drew Carpenter had his chance, as did Sergio Escalona and Kyle Kendrick while JA Happ and Antonio Bastardo are set in the rotation for the time being. Meanwhile, Carrasco is still figuring himself out, searching for consistency in triple-A.

By the end of 2009 Carrasco could very well be in the majors. He could be a September call-up to slot into the bullpen. Or he could slide into the rotation if help is needed. Or he could be on the Padres, Indians, Blue Jays, Astros or any other team coveting him in a trade. Most likely though, he will still be in Lehigh Valley, fixing his curveball and working to find success. At this point it seems unlikely that Carrasco will be the No. 2 behind Cole Hamels that many had expected. A solid No. 4 or No. 5 is certainly possible – and the big club could use that right now.

Avatar of Ben Seal

About Ben Seal

Ben Seal has written 48 articles on Phillies Nation.

  • Well done piece, but it begs the question; is he worth more to the Phillies in a trade, or in triple-A for one or two more seasons?

    He could be a major piece to a trade puzzle and I have no qualms about dealing him for a major league talent if thats what needs to happen. Plus, with guys like Drabek, Savery, and now the inclusion of Bastardo, the Phillies have some solid arms waiting in the wings. They can afford to deal Carrasco and get away with it down the road if they believe some of the other guys will be ready around the same time.

    I say use him in a trade if possible, might be the best course of action.

  • Posts: 0 BS

    I don’t know if Carrasco will ever be the #2 we hope either, but I think if he continues to improve he can definitely be better than a #4 or 5. I mean he’s less than a year older than Drabek, and has been pitching at higher levels than Drabek has. His minor league peripherals have always been better than Gavin Floyd’s. And Floyd turned out to be a fairly solid #3.

    I haven’t seen Carrasco pitch this year, but just looking at his numbers, it seems like the ERA’s inflated because of some bad luck. His K-rate is good as ever, his BB-rate is down, and his HR-rate isn’t off from his career averages. Maybe he has some mental issues to work out, but I’d expect to see his ERA to start going down.

    Savery, on the other hand, has been sort of lucky this year.

  • Posts: 0 William of Schuylkill County

    BS…I was writing just about the same thing when my page updated. I think we gave up on Floyd too fast and now he is a solid 3 guy like you said who the Phillies would love to have in this rotation.

    I haven’t seen Savery pitch but he was a former 1st round pick so luck can’t be the only thing going for him.

  • Posts: 0 NJ

    In this town Carrasco seems like the kind of prospect who’s going to get the Floyd/Marlon Byrd treatment and be dealt after a couple of mediocre years, maybe Zach Greinke’s success will reassure teams it’s worth holding on to their young talented pitchers putting up mediocre numbers.

    As for the system it’s not just Carrasco, Drabek, Bastardo and Savery. There’s so many pitchers in system either with a buzz or will have a buzz because of great numbers, Flande looks like a name to watch out for.

  • BS and William,

    would you guys object if he were given up in a deadline deal for an Aaron Cook or Aaron Harang knowing we have some other guys who are nearing Carrasco’s level?

    I think there might be enough horses in the stable for that to happen, though I wouldnt really want to see the Phils give up on him like they did Floyd.

  • Posts: 0 Geoff

    I agree, I mean Antonio Bastardo has leapfrogged him and is now holding his own at the major league level (though he is battling hard and its not pretty sometimes).

    It would be a shame to see the Phils give up on Carrasco, who would be a stable pitcher if he finishes his development. However I see him EXACTLY like Gavin Floyd. I think that he would benefit from being in an organization with less depth than ours where he can step into a rotation and be given the time to succeed or fail just like the White Sox did with Gavin Floyd. The Phillies have a buinch of arms who might be ready around the same time as Carrasco (such as Savery, Drabek and eventually Worley and Stutes) so they can afford to deal him. Sometimes guys get lost in the mix, and I think thats what happened with Floyd and Carrasco. You owe it to them to give them a chance somehere else to make it.

    So Id be ok with putting him in a deal for major league pitching.

  • Posts: 0 William of Schuylkill County

    Pat- I don’t want him to be traded to be honest. You can never have enough pitching…everyone always says that. But you have to look at what the Phillies want to do…

    Do they win now and think that Cook or Harang can do that


    Do you project Carrascos career and think he is a solid of career as a Cook or Harang who I see as a 3 guy which is looking like Carlos is. You would get more years out of Carrasco than the other two.

    You have to look at next year’s rotation too…Hamels, Myers(if they resign him), Blanton, Happ and Carrassco.

    Moyer and Bastardo as well could fight for a spot, if Moyer is still around

    Thinking that they resign Myers(I believe this is his last year of his contract..I couldn’t find the numbers fast enough) and I think Blanton is there yet with arbitation. And figuring on Moyer retiring or them realizing he is done. But if they don’t resign Myers than you have to assume they are keeping Carrassco would be a must!

    I don’t like either Cook or Harang so I wouldn’t trade him…plus I would be thinking of the future.

  • Posts: 0 Geoff

    The Problem is they need major league pitching now, starting and relief, which costs prospects. Kyle Drabek is projecting much higher anyway and there is not going to be room for both of them.

  • Posts: 0 BS

    @Pat – For Harang, yeah I probably would. But then again, I’ve always liked Harang a lot for some reason – maybe overly so.

    But for a guy like Cook or Penny? I wouldn’t. I’d be open to bundling Carrasco in a package to get a higher level starter (a solid #2), but I’d be much less open to dealing him for another mid-level SP.

  • Posts: 0 BS

    @Geoff – There’s always room for good pitchers. :-)

    It’s a ways off, but if Carrasco and Drabek turn out to be a real deal, wouldn’t a rotation of Hamels, Carrasco, Drabek be pretty money? I can’t remember the last time (at least in my lifetime) the Phils had 2 lock-down starters, much less 1.

  • It’s a what can you do for me now sport, so you can’t look at what Carrasco will do 8 years from now. The Phillies are in a position to win in the next three years, so how can they best achieve that?

    If Amaro believes its through trading Carrasco, then I don’t think he’ll hesistate. Myers won’t be back I dont think, but if Happ and Bastardo stick for next year, it wouldnt make much of a difference. If your looking at 2010, the Phillies wouldn’t keep a third youngster in the rotation assuming Moyer doesnt come back.

    A free agent pitcher is more likely anyway, so Carrasco could still be at least a year away.

    I;d like to keep him and see his progress through, but I’m not sure the Phils have the patience right now. Maybe I’m wrong.

  • Posts: 0 Matt S


    I have the same opinion about harang. Not sure why but i really like the guy. I think hes stuck in a bad situation and a change of scenery might show that he is a really good pitcher.

    Then again, I might be completely off.

  • Posts: 0 J A Happy

    If he has a fast ball better than our #1 and a change up a tad lower than our #1 than he still could project to a # 1 right ?
    i say give him some time

  • Posts: 0 beta sigma shag

    Aditedly I do not follow the minors a great deal pick up info on here and maybe a few other spots, I do not like the term giving up on a guy just cause you trade him, If you get value in returnand feel it helps you now and next year does not mean they gave up on the guy,
    The phillies need a little help, and I do mean little, dispite some of how some of you in here think i.e. Geoff,
    If you can package Carrasco, for a solid 3 guy that you can keep for two years or more, not Penny, Oswalt, or Peavy, then you do it and give the kid a shot somewhere else.
    I am not big on trading any of these young guys for a 1/2+year rental pitcher.

    This is the reason I think that any move by the PHillies will be closer to the deadline, when some more teams feel they are out of the playoff race, because right now a lot of these teams still think they can make the playoffs, so they are not dealing. The next 3 weeks will seperate more teams, like the Rockies, Tronoto, and a few others that still feel they have a shot at the wild card, even the Cubs may be out of it in the next 3 weeks, and willing to deal if they have anyone we would want

  • Posts: 0 mikeB

    If only we could look into the crystal ball and see what is going to happen involving trades before the July deadline. A dependable veteran starter is needed and although I hate to see him go, Carrasco I believe is at the top of the Phils’ swapping list. I do not understand what anyone sees in Aaron Cook. If you go by what Aaron Harang has done pitching against the Phillies over the years then I suppose you could look at him possibly as being a good acquisition for the Phillies and plug him in right now as the #2 starter. Brad Penny has a history of injuries.

  • Posts: 0 Frank

    The phillies were close to a deal that would have sent J.A. Happ and prospects (dont know who) to the rockies for Jason Marquis, and Ryan Spilborgs

  • Posts: 0 Miles

    I’m a big fan of Marquis and Harang. Not as top of the rotation guys but as guys that would fit in great on this team. They give you a great chance to win every time they go out. I would have traded Carrasco straight up for either of them but I really don’t see them being available. Colorado is playing better baseball than anyone right now and the Reds rebuilding phase is over. They are going to try to win now.

    I’m really concerned that no one is going to be available for us to acquire unless we pay a pretty penny. Teams like the Indians, Reds, etc, better fall deep into the cellar soon.

  • Posts: 0 Matt S

    Marquis blows.

  • Posts: 0 The Dispy

    Frank. Do you haver some special knowledge that we’re not aware of. Unless you heard something from a reliable source (Olney, Gammons, NOT Ken Rosenthal) the you just wasted a post. Carrasco is still very young. I would hate to see him become Gavin Floyd somewhere else. Since he is a latin player, Chris Wheeler would probably refer to him as a “space cadet”. If there’s one thing I love in this world, its a good change up. :)

    The Dipsy

  • Posts: 0 lovehandles

    Carrasco showed a great deal of promise but has ultimately not performed consistantly to our initial expectations. I was hugely impressed with last season’s outings with the Pigs. His arsenal was phenominal. ’09 has shown us he needs far more shaping than originally thought necessary. At this point, with our pitching as it is, his potential is worth more in trade. As trades usually go, swap and pray he struggles.

  • Posts: 0 christopher

    i’m just as excited to see carrasco make his big league debut as i ever was. maybe he won’t pan out, but i’d still rather keep him in the orgainzation than see him dealt.

    good piece.

  • Posts: 0 Bruce

    Sign free agent Paul Byrd and revive ” the Byrd’s Nest” for the fans. ;-)

  • Posts: 0 Eb

    The Dipsy…
    That report was confirmed by Joel Sherman out of NY for what it is worth. I do agree with you that Ken Rosenthal is a fraud and a midget.

    I dont understand why they dont spot start Carrassco once and just see what happens.

  • Posts: 0 Frank

    I never said carrasco was in the deal and i got the rumor from Joel Sherman

    http://blogs.nypost.com/sports/st/archives/2009/06/3_up_rockies_ma.html (thats the site)

    So there you go tough guy

  • Posts: 0 The Dispy

    Ok, Frank. Im not a tough guy. Just hate people tossing out that stuff out there without any backup. Thanks for the clarification. Didn’t seem like a horrible deal by the way. I know you didn’t say Carrasco was in the deal. I just started talking about him. My apologies if I offended.

    The Dipsy

  • Posts: 0 Frank

    no u didint offend i jus said that 2 see what u would say haha i wouldent put nething out there with out a source bt

  • Posts: 0 Frank


  • Posts: 0 Richie Allen

    I think its a done deal that Carrasco would be gone if we found the right pitcher for our rotation.I mean an experienced #1 or #2 guy.
    I hope we dont trade Carrasco for any mid-level guys though,we have them now.Blanton ,Happ, Bastardo…Park.

    Somebody above said it best….This team is meant to win for the next 3 years,we have our core guys locked up .who knows what the Phils will look like after that.Go after somebody good.

  • Posts: 0 Frank

    Bastardo has to go back down they need tol et eaither carpenter or carrasco come up u cant pitch in the big leagus with a 94 mph fastball and two offspeed pitches you cant throw (slider, and change)

  • Posts: 0 Chuck P

    I’m ok with trading Carrasco if we can get a SOLID #2 starter… proven to be reliable as a top of the rotation guy. If not, then we’re better off sticking with him, in my opinion.

    I don’t think that you can look at Gavin Floyd in the same light… at that time, we were wondering whether the arm of the future was Cole Hamels OR Gavin Floyd… we knew that they were both pretty good but they were stuck looking over their shoulders at every turn. We promoted Cole, he did “OK” but trading Floyd was passing the torch, so to speak. I think that it was the right move.

  • Posts: 0 Keystone

    I’ll trade Carrasco, Werth, Blanton, and Coste/Marson to the D-Backs for Dan Haran right now. They’re out of the race. I’ll even throw Andy Tracy in since they’re 1B is on the DL.

    I love to makeup unreasonable and completely unlikely trades.

  • Posts: 0 Scott

    If Mayberry continues to be somewhat effective then Werth is someone who could be of some value to other teams. As for Carrasco you must understand he is still 22. If he were to be traded it would have to be for an elite pitcher. The problem is everyone thinks they are still in it. I live not to far away from the Blueclaws and had a chance to see Jason Knapp pitch and this kid can fire the ball and has good poise on the mound. He is the one that I would hold on to. Give it another month and we will see who the real contenders are and then we can get a better idea of who may become available. Hopefully these better pitchers can get healthy.

  • [...] is plenty left to be seen with Carlos Carrasco, and the results could swing in so many directions, but Thursday night is the one we have been anticipating for three years. If “likely” becomes [...]

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