Saturday, August 22, 2015


Each and every season in fantasy baseball, certain players make the "leap" to upper tier status.  Whether your a hitter who slugs home runs habitually or a pitcher who breaks out with ace-like stuff, investing a player the season he makes such a jump ends up being fantasy baseball gold.  We have seen in particular a few cases such as this among pitchers in 2015, with Jacob DeGrom and Chris Archer quickly coming to mind in terms of guys who made the leap to ace status.  Another case is presently unfolding in Cleveland as well in the form of the fireballing Carlos Carrasco who after a slow start, is really building momentum to joining the ace tier as well.  The latest example of this came Friday night when Carrasco struck out 11 in 6.1 innings while giving up just one run in a victory over the New York Yankees.  For Carrasco, the strikeouts and dominant pitching brings back memories of his huge second half finish to 2014 when we first started seeing this ace-like ability from the 28-yard-old righty.  So with all that said, let's dig back in and revisit the Carrasco story. 

I mentioned the age which might surprise many to know that Carrasco is already 28 which is older than most other "breakout" guys.  Surely Carrasco does fall into the "post-hype sleeper" realm as his career (where he debuted in 2009) through the 2013 season was nothing but an abomination.  Take a look at the ERA's Carrasco compiled in his stop and start campaigns with the Indians during that four-season stretch:

2009:  8.87
2010:  3.83
2011:  4.62
2013:  6.75

Other than 2010, Carrasco was a human batting practice machine who also missed the entire 2012 campaign to injury.  Despite having the ability to reach the upper-90's with his fastball, Carrasco's control was terrible and he gave up a ton of hits as well.  There is no good I having a potent fastball when you can't control it and Carrasco surely was getting whiplash from all the times he had to turn around to see how many hits he was giving up.  In addition to the terrible pitching results, Carrasco's body always seemed to fail him as well.  The massive torque on his shoulder and elbow led to a bunch of DL stints and surgeries that further inhibited his progress.  Combine everything together and Carrasco was nothing but an afterthought as 2014 began, a season he started out in the bullpen.  In fact Carrasco did not move into the Cleveland rotation for perhaps a last ditch chance to salvage his MLB career until the middle of the 2014 season and that was due to injuries to some other members of the staff.  However it was from that firm line of demarcation where the proverbial light bulb went on for Carrasco. 

Showing control he never possessed previously, Carrasco was now able to full unleash his blazing fastball that began to nearly touch 100 when he began pitching again in the Cleveland rotation starting in August of last season.  The results the last two months of 2014 would be nothing short of spectacular as Carrasco pitched to 1.82 ERA in August and a ridiculous 1.62 mark in September.  The strikeouts?  Previously Carrasco was nothing more than a mid-7.0 K/9 IP guy prior to his late 2014 run but his newfound control allowed him to unleash the heater to the tune of 83 strikeouts in only 74 innings.  Those who invested in Carrasco at the start of August were rewarded with a major difference-maker the rest of the season and a fond memory that would take them to 2015 drafts. 

When the 2015 season came around, Carrasco was a popular fantasy baseball sleeper based on the notion that he could be a dominant ace now that he would have a full year in the rotation.  All that was needed was for Carrasco to continue showing good control and avoid injury and the results would follow.  Going along with his career of inconsistency however, Carrasco struggled the first half of the season in posting the following ERA's the first three months:

April:  4.60
May:  4.10
June:  4.02

In looking at the first half of the season, it seems that Carrasco is one of those guys who simply get off to slow starts like a Jon Lester or a Cole Hamels.  Both Lester and Hamels habitually have terrible Aprils each and every season and Carrasco might be one of those guys also.  However Carrasco was giving up a few more home runs than he should have which helped boost the ERA as well.  There was fear that maybe the second half run by Carrasco in 2014 was a mirage but the real key early in his 2015 campaign was the very unlucky BABIP he was carrying around.  Simply put, Carrasco was very unlucky the first half of the season with a BABIP that showed a ton of hits dropping in that was not sustainable over the year.   The big key was that Carrasco was still showing great control with a BB/9 IP under 2.00 and that portended to big things eventually. 

Well just on schedule, Carrasco flipped the switch once the second half arrived, unleashing dominant outing after dominant outing starting in July.  A 3.72 July ERA was followed by what is turning out to be a crazy good August which has Carrasco at a 1.47 ERA after his gem on Friday.  For the month of August Carrasco has struck out 33 in 30 innings and for the season he now has a cumulative 3.53 ERA and 173 strikeouts in 158 innings.  Carrasco has a great chance to reach the 200-K mark the rest of the way and lower the ERA even more.  When I see Carrasco now, he reminds me of a righthanded Chris Sale the way he can rack up insane strikeouts and now keep the ball in the park with nice control.  There simply is no reason Carrasco can't be the fantasy baseball ace we expected in 2015 going into 2016. 

In conclusion, Carlos Carrasco is looking like another monster second-half pitcher and overall a fantasy baseball ace.  Arms such as his are very special and rare and Carrasco is a guy I am ready to fully buy into next season.  You should do the same. 


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