Aug 14, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco (59) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Carlos Carrasco's Uncertain Future


Carlos Carrasco was blessed at birth with one of the most lively arms any of us has ever had the pleasure of witnessing first hand. As a result, there has never been any doubting the talent level of the Tribe’s once highly touted pitching prospect who was acquired in the Cliff Lee trade oh so many years ago. The problem for Carrasco has come with the execution. For whatever reason, there appears to be a disconnect between the talent and the actual on field results.

Unfortunately, this disconnect is becoming more glaring every time Carrasco takes the mound and lays an egg, especially following appearances where it seems like everything has finally clicked. Such was the case on Wednesday afternoon. Following a superb five innings of relief on April 9th against the Angels in which he allowed one hit and struck out four, Carrasco lasted only 4.1 innings yesterday. He allowed four runs on 10 hits and allowed the Twins to knock him around Target Field with relative ease.

It was the same issue back in June. Following a start against the Royals in which he allowed one run on four hits over the course of 7.1 innings of work, everyone began to sing his praises believing that Carrasco had finally figured things out at the big league level. That would prove not to be the case. Six days later Carrasco would last only 4.2 innings, ironically enough against the Twins, and essentially set ablaze any and all confidence fans had in the young flame thrower.

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The same was also true for the front office. Carrasco made two more lackluster starts for the Tribe before being demoted back to triple-A to work on everything. If not for the recent injuries to the pitching staff it’s likely that Carrasco would still be in Columbus working on his game, striving to get better so he can make a lasting impact with the big league club in some way, shape, or form. The trade rumors surrounding Carrasco at the trade deadline didn’t help matters either. There’s something about the possibility of a 26-year old pitcher with electric stuff being on the move that makes people lose their collective minds.

That’s the kicker here. Carrasco’s age – he’s still only 26 – combined with the electric arm and jaw dropping arsenal of pitches is too much to ignore. That’s why it is way too soon to be giving up on him all together. It should also tell you something when opposing teams are drooling at the thought of acquiring him for nothing more than a lefty specialist, as was being reported at the time.

Fans expect so much from Carrasco, especially since he was one of the marquee players brought to Cleveland in exchange for Cliff Lee. It’s almost impossible for him to live up to that standard. At least not yet. He’s made a grand total of 39 big league starts spanning the course of five seasons, one of which he missed all together thanks to Tommy John surgery. 2013 is Carrasco’s first season back following said surgery so bumps in the road should be expected.

Even still, fans see the 5.35 career ERA, 10-19 record, and the laundry list of suspensions and bean ball incidents and automatically begin throwing around the word bust. Looking at Carrasco’s 2013 BAbip (.358), FIP (4.97), and SIERA (4.93) it is obvious that Carrasco is not as bad as we have perceived him to be based on traditional stats. Yes, Carrasco may eventually turn out to be a bust along with Andrew Miller and Jason Knapp, but it’s way too soon to be throwing that word around. With which standard are we evaluating players and trades? Is winning the Cy Young award and signing a $100-million contract extension the only way Carrasco can possibly live up to expectations? Why is that the standard?

Before giving up all hope in Carlos Carrasco, why not explore every single option available in order to find his true value? While Carrasco has the arm and pitches to be a front line starter, maybe he doesn’t have the mental makeup. Maybe, he’s not meant to be that guy. Could Carrasco find a niche for himself out of the bullpen somewhere down the line? Why not? We saw what he could do in such a role against the Angles. Maybe he can reinvent himself in a new role.

Even crazier, why not explore the possibility of Carrasco as a closer. Everyone seems to be clamoring for the end of the Chris Perez era, but no one has presented an option to replace him outside of Vinnie Pestano. Why not Carrasco and his lightning arm? How well could he pitch in a one inning situation where it’s all or nothing with one or two pitches? We’ve seen enough starters make the transition to closer throughout the years that this doesn’t seem as ludicrous as it sounds. If the Indians try it and it fails, then move on.

The bottom line in all of this is simple. The Indians can’t afford to give up on a player with Carrasco’s skill set before exploring every possible roll. Not taking the time and completely investing in a young flame thrower is short-sighted. There is too much good that could possibly come from Carrasco in a roll other than starter. Ultimately, the goal should be to have Carrasco as a permanent fixture in the rotation, but failure in that roll should not signal the end of the line for him as an Indian.

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Tags: Carlos Carrasco Chris Perez Cleveland Indians Cliff Lee Vinnie Pestano