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Over the course of the year, it's become clear that the Jays have a lot of good young pitchers. There's the fabulous major league quartet of Ricky Romero, Shaun Marcum, Brandon Morrow and Brett Cecil. There are the fringe guys - Jesse Litsch, Brad Mills, Marc Rzepczynski - who would not be fringe guys in many other organizations. There are a couple of big-name prospects who came over in trades - Kyle Drabek and Zach Stewart. There's the haul from the 2010 draft - Aaron Sanchez, Deck McGuire, Asher Woj, Noah Syndergaard. Not to mention guys like Henderson Alvarez, Chad Jenkins, and hey, throw Dustin McGowan in there.

You know who had a better season than any of those guys?

That would be Mr. Joel Carreno. The young Dominican has always sported shiny ratios, but has never made more than 16 starts in a season. This year he made 25, pitching 138 innings, and he busted out in a big way.

The first things that jump out upon inspecting Carreno's season stats are his strikeouts and walks. 173 strikeouts. 30 walks. Once again: 137.2 innings. That leads to ratios of 11.3 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9, both stunning numbers. They translate to a K/BB of 5.77, which would rank 9th best in the entire minor leagues for pitchers with 100+ innings. Carreno's home run rate is also excellent: he allowed eight all year, or 0.5/9 IP.

Despite these incredible peripherals, Carreno's ERA this year was a somewhat pedestrian 3.73. What gives? Well, the other important rate at this layer is the rate at which a pitcher allows hits. Carreno allowed 147 in his 138 innings. Not a terrible rate, but not great. Certainly not in line with how well he controlled the other facets of his game. So when I saw this I was a little mystified. It just struck me as wrong, somehow. How could a pitcher with such stunning peripheral stats allow hits at such a rate?

As it turns out, Carreno deserved to allow many fewer hits than he did. Further inspection reveals that Joel's BABIP against on the year was .392. That is awfully high. So high, in fact, that were he in the major leagues, he would have allowed the highest BABIP in baseball. By forty-four points. His BABIP was way higher than the major league "leader", Brandon Morrow, at .348.

This explains why Carreno's FIP, which as you may know is a stat that predicts a pitcher's ERA based on the things he is in complete control of - strikeouts, walks and home runs - was a spectacular 2.46 on the season. His xFIP, which normalizes a pitcher's home run rate to the standard 10.6%, was a slightly worse 2.72 (Carreno was a little lucky on home runs this year).

I'd imagine this is common in the minor leagues. Minor league fielders aren't nearly as good as their major league counterparts, leading to some absurdly high BABIPs. It's important to take this sort of thing into account when assessing minor league pitchers.

But wait, it gets better. Though most pitchers tend to allow about 30% of their balls in play to become hits (or, put another way, a .300 BABIP), some can expect to maintain a lower rate based on the types of hits they allow. Specifically, pitchers who don't give up a lot of line drives generally have lower BABIPs. And Carreno fits right in with that group.

Joel's LD% allowed this year was 14.4%, a very good number. For comparison, that would rank 4th in the major leagues - tied with Mat Latos, and behind Tim Hudson, Fausto Carmona and Jeremy Guthrie. The BABIPs allowed by those guys were .255, .249, .293, and .266, respectively. In fact, Carreno has always allowed a low LD% - his career mark stands at an incredible 12.8%. It's absolutely bizarre that a guy with such a low line drive rate could have allowed such a ridiculously high BABIP. Dunedin must have been putting some serious butchers on the field.

So while Carreno's xFIP of 2.72 is fantastic, I think it actually underrates his season because it doesn't take into account the fact that his BABIP can be expected to be lower than most based on his line drive rate.

Now, there are some caveats here. Joel is 23 and pitching in high-A. Second, I wonder if it's more common for minor league pitchers to maintain low line drive rates given a weaker level of hitters.

So while nobody is mistaking Joel Carreno for the best pitching prospect in the Jays organization (sorry, maybe the title is a little misleading), he certainly had a fantastic season. I can't speak for the rest of the minor league crew, but don't be surprised to see him climbing the prospect rankings this off-season.
The Best Pitcher in the Organization | 23 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
92-93 - Wednesday, September 08 2010 @ 12:50 PM EDT (#222091) #
Thanks for opening my eyes to Carreno, Dave. It seems Carreno got even better as the season wore on which probably bodes well for his future prospects. In the 2nd half he had a 90:11 K:BB in 71 innings. He jumped from 90.2 in 2009 to 137.2 innings this year so I'm a little curious as to why the Jays abandoned their 20% rule here - did Carreno throw innings in another league I'm just not seeing? If he gets off to a successful start in New Hampshire next year it looks like he will find himself firmly planted on the team's radar.
Jonny German - Wednesday, September 08 2010 @ 01:30 PM EDT (#222095) #
Looks like Carreno will need to be added to the 40-man this offseason - he'll surely be taken in the Rule 5 if left unprotected.
John Northey - Wednesday, September 08 2010 @ 01:36 PM EDT (#222097) #
Always interesting to see guys who you didn't notice too much and try to understand them. Carreno has moved along slowly. Dominican Summer League at 19, GCL at 20, NYPL at 21, Midwest (plus 2 starts in the NYPL) at 22, FSL at 23. As slow as humanly possible really, without stalling out.

None of his stats screamed at you one way or the other - solid ERA's in the 3's the past 3 years, low walk rate (3.1 in DSL, 3.2 in MW but otherwise 2.2 or less), high K rate but slumped a bit in 2009 to 7.3 (overall at 9.6). Looks good, but is there something there that is a trick pitch that works great on kids but might flop higher up? This year was a breakthrough though and I figure AA in 2011 with a shot at the majors if he does well. 160 IP should be possible, so a full season in 2012 when his current pace puts him in AAA at 25.

Of note: he was only 9th in the organization for K/9 but 2nd for starting pitchers. Above him? Aaron Sanchez in 10 starts (just 25 IP) with a 13.3 K/9 ratio and a 6.1 BB/9 ratio (yikes!).
ayjackson - Wednesday, September 08 2010 @ 02:08 PM EDT (#222098) #
I seem to recall from Gerry's scouting reports that Joel sports a low-90's FB, developing change and a lights-out slider that he uses ALOT.
TamRa - Wednesday, September 08 2010 @ 02:16 PM EDT (#222100) #
how's his ground ball rate? or was it in there and I missed it?

One would assume a ground ball would be more likely to be poorly fielded

23 is not WAY too old for Hi-A ball but it does mitigate it a bit.

BTW: Cerrano starts tonight for the D-Jays against the Tampa Yankees.
Dave Till - Wednesday, September 08 2010 @ 02:33 PM EDT (#222103) #
How could a pitcher with such stunning peripheral stats allow hits at such a rate?

My first thought was that he was throwing the ball right down the middle and daring opposing batters to hit it. But his home runs allowed isn't high, so your theory (that he was very unlucky) is probably better.

I look forward to seeing what he does at higher levels.
sam - Wednesday, September 08 2010 @ 02:39 PM EDT (#222104) #
Great post!
Mick Doherty - Wednesday, September 08 2010 @ 03:18 PM EDT (#222108) #

Nice work, David.

Let's see if I can summarize your point in a line or two: "Hey, this guy nobody has ever heard of? Maybe the 17th-best pitcher in the organization, surely not Top 10? Having the best season of anyone, this year anyway. Sweet."

How'd I do?  8-P

Paul D - Wednesday, September 08 2010 @ 03:23 PM EDT (#222109) #
I thought one of the reasons you couldn't use DIPS for minor leaguers was because DIPS is self-selecting.  In other words, it's only for pitchers who can control their BABIP enough that they make it to the majors?  Ilove the K/BB numbers, but I'd be leary of putting too much weight into FIP and DIPS for a guy in high A
Mike Green - Wednesday, September 08 2010 @ 03:34 PM EDT (#222110) #
There seems to be a bug in the minorleague splits data.  It shows 41.6% GB, 14.4% LD and 36.3% FB.  This adds up to considerably less than 100%.  Carreno's BABIP on ground balls is .354, which is very high. For comparison, Henderson Alvarez' is .258.  Chad Beck's is .212.  Frank Gailey's is .246.  Ryan Page's is .234.  Those are the only pitchers on Dunedin who threw more than 80 innings this year (aside from Huggins whose Dunedin splits are inaccessible to me because of his promotion to NH).

I wouldn't attribute Carreno's BABIP to poor infield defence.  It might just be bad luck re location of balls hit on the ground, or it might be that balls on the ground have been hit harder against him than against other pitchers.  We'll know the answer to these questions in a few years when more data becomes available.

John Northey - Wednesday, September 08 2010 @ 03:59 PM EDT (#222113) #
This is where having a version of UZR for the minors for pitchers could be helpful.

What I'm thinking of is to see what the UZR is for each position on the field for an individual pitcher. Do an abnormally high number of balls shoot through the SS for this pitcher? Might suggest that he was unlucky enough to have the team experiment with someone at 3B who should be at DH whenever he pitched - for example (remembering the Cecil Fielder at 3B experiment Jimy Williams did one spring, it was as ugly as you can picture, in '86 he was used in the AAA outfield too for 38 games...those poor pitchers). I know I'd be checking stuff like that if I was running a team just to see if there were any patterns that could tell you 'yes, he is a poor BABIP guy' or 'he was just unlucky/manager hated him'.
Mike Green - Wednesday, September 08 2010 @ 04:02 PM EDT (#222115) #
Actually,  a more robust version of Hit Tracker would probably help even more.  If you measured MPH and angle off the bat for grounders, as well as HRs, you'd be able to get some useful information about velocity as opposed to direction. 
ayjackson - Wednesday, September 08 2010 @ 05:10 PM EDT (#222119) #

That would be Hit f/x....and here's an interesting note from a Fangraphs chat earlier today:

Dave Cameron: 

Hit F/x is already developed, but we won't see the data for a long time. It's super expensive, and the only business model that they've developed does not involve releasing it to the public.

It makes me wonder if the Jays have purchased the data.

DaveB - Wednesday, September 08 2010 @ 06:45 PM EDT (#222122) #
Great job, Dave. Very informative. I don't put much of a negative spin on his age. He's only a  year older than Jenkins and many other recent college draft picks in High A, and has continued to put up pretty good numbers with each higher stage in the minors.  As for the bump in innings, his age and lack of arm trouble to date may be factors. Does someone have a link to Gerry's comments about him in Lansing last year? The Jays have enough young pitching depth to think about converting a couple quality starting arms to the bullpen and perhaps Carreno is a candidate. You have to like his control and the ability to miss bats so far.

greenfrog - Wednesday, September 08 2010 @ 08:01 PM EDT (#222124) #
Drabek hitting 97 on the radar gun tonight, per Keith Law:
ayjackson - Wednesday, September 08 2010 @ 08:47 PM EDT (#222125) #

This is from a GM interview with Doug Davis earlier this year:

BB: How did Joel Carreno get 15 strikeouts yesterday?

DD: I looked at the report last night and did a double take.  Joel has very good stuff, his fastball gets up to 93-94mph.  He has a very good breaking pitch and I guess that was really working last night.  It's a swing and miss type breaking ball that he can change up a little bit.  At times it is an over the top curveball and at times he gets more sweep into it so it is more like a slider.  I don't care what level you are at, if you strike out 15 guys in 6 innings that is saying something.

This is from a GM interview with Clayton McCullogh:

BB: Another one of your starters is Joel Carreno who you also had last season.  Last year he was more of a bullpen pitcher, this year he is having success as a starter.  What is the difference in him between this year and last?

CM: Carreno is a good competitor, when he takes the ball he wants to win.  He has gotten better from start to start.  He is another guy, first year at this level, having to adjust to the hitters, he has done great for us.  He is learning to trust his fastball and to pitch off it a little bit more than he has in the past.  Use his breaking ball when he needs a big out.

Schad - Thursday, September 09 2010 @ 06:52 PM EDT (#222151) #
I've been on the Carreno bandwagon for a while, and at his age he's a guy that could move in a hurry...he'll almost certainly be placed on the 40-man in the offseason to avoid the Rule V draft, and I wouldn't be surprised if he started 2011 in AAA and established himself as the first call-up upon injury, as he's the sort of pitcher whose numbers should do well in that environment so long as he has a good defense behind him.
TamRa - Thursday, September 09 2010 @ 07:45 PM EDT (#222155) #
that might be agressive. The way I imagine it, Drabek starts the year as the ace in Vegas, Carreno as the #1 in NH, and Jenkins in Dunedin with McGuire in Lansing.

When the Jays see fit to move up Drabek, all the rest of these will advance (assuming they are ready) in domino fashion...and at some point, Aaron Sanchez will advance to Lansing (permenantly)

Stewart will be #2 in Vegas, by the way, and my guess is Alvarez starts the season back at Dunedin given his age. Woj will probably start the year in Lansing too.

fredlewis3 - Thursday, September 09 2010 @ 09:07 PM EDT (#222157) #

 I wonder if they are going to release Huggins...11 and 4 , lowest era, whip etc in High quality start in NH and one terrible.

Had a quality start in 1st game of playoffs.

DaveB - Friday, September 10 2010 @ 12:03 AM EDT (#222161) #
ayjackson, thanks for posting those comments about Carreno.   Sounds like the curve is his plus pitch and with a fastball he can spot for strikes at 93-94, it's a good foundation to build on. He may not need much more than that to be effective out of the bullpen if he becomes a conversion project in the next year or two.
TamRa - Friday, September 10 2010 @ 01:44 AM EDT (#222168) #
 I wonder if they are going to release Huggins...

Far too early for that, even if he has a low ceiling, you still have to fill out staffs.

Let's assume for the moment that Hill is the fifth starter in Toronto on opening day, and that Litsch is still recouperating and McGowan likewise...
(I list six names on each team because one has to assume someone will be hurt)

ML: Romero - Morrow - Marcum - Cecil - Hill (Litsch)
AAA: Drabek - Zep - Stewart - Mills - Richmond - Perez
(Richmond might be in ML 'pen)
AA: Carreno - Reyes* - Bell - Boone - Huggins - Gonzalez
*If Richmond is in the ML 'pen Reyes is the best candidate to go to AAA)
A+:Jenkins - Alvarez - Liebel - Page - Shopshire - Tepera
(Tepera could be Sever, Fields, or Smith instead depending on ST and health)
A-: McGuire - Smith - Hutchenson - Lawrence - Woj - Seaver - Fields
(I pushed Webb back because he wasn't too effective at Auburn and Woj needs the spot)
SS: Sanchez - Hernandez - Diaz - Webb - Dyson - - Nolin - Strikland
R+: Syndergaard - Murphy - Estrada - Purdy - Powell - Vargas
R-: Nicolino - Taylor - Jaye - ?

and of course you can expect some 2011 draft picks to fill out those lower rungs.

While having more than five fit for every level might seem an excess (and might lead to releases or bullpen shifts at some point) the impact of injuries makes it unwise to ditch guys unless you are sure they have nothing to offer you even as an organization soldier (which is probably Huggins' future)
Just notice, for instance, that if Huggins were released, and anyone else gets hurt, then we are right back to sticking guys Like Lamura and Everts into the rotation. Better, IMO, to see if Gonzalez can accomplish anything in relief and keep better options (theoretically at least) open.

TamRa - Friday, September 10 2010 @ 01:48 AM EDT (#222169) #

all that work and i still left out Bobby Ray.

dawgatc - Friday, September 10 2010 @ 04:53 AM EDT (#222172) #
and zac adams
The Best Pitcher in the Organization | 23 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.