This past winter, Sandy Alderson signed a lot of players to low-risk, high-reward, one year deals. The only player to get a multi-year contract was relief pitcher D.J. Carrasco, who inked a two year, $2.4 million deal. An player who could be used in a variety of roles out of the bullpen and who had been consistent between 2009-10 (171.2 IP, 3.72 ERA, 1.363 WHIP and 2.02 K/BB), Carrasco seemed like a relatively safe signing who could provide some stability in a bullpen that featured a Rule 5 pick in Pedro Beato and a player coming off injuries like Taylor Buccholz. So when Carrasco was optioned to the minor leagues instead of Dillon Gee, I was a little surprised. But in a way, it makes some sense.
D.J. struggled mightily to start the season. In seven innings out of the bullpen, he allowed four earned runs on nine hits and three walks while striking out four, although he also did strand all five inherited runners. He was also asked to make one start, the first game of a double header against the Atlanta Braves on April 16th, where he also struggled, lasting just three and two-third innings, surrendering three runs (all on solo home runs), four hits and three walks with one punch out. Carrasco has thrown just 49% of pitches inside the strikezone, and opposing batters have swung and missed just 4.9% of the time, according to FanGraphs. Although the sample size was small, Alderson felt he had seen enough to send D.J. off to Buffalo to join the Bisons rotation.
Actually, Carrasco made one hitless relief appearance before joining the triple-A rotation on April 30th. His first start did not go well, lasting only three innings, allowing five runs (three earned) on five hits. However, his next three starts were better. In his last three outings, Carrasco has gone five, five and six innings, yielding a total of eight earned runs (a 4.50 ERA) on twenty-two hits and eight walks while fanning 15, nine of which came in his May 10th start against Scranton/WB. In addition, in those three starts, he’s also thrown almost 65% of his pitches for strikes and induced fifteen ground ball outs against seven fly ball outs. He’s allowing a lot of hits still, but the improved ground ball rate, which was just 38.9% this season in the majors, and control are positive signs.
So why does it make sense to have Carrasco in the rotation when he began the year in the majors in the bullpen? Well for one, the bullpen is actually pretty crowded right now, with the Mets needing to make a move soon to accommodate Beato, and potentially another move when Bobby Parnell is ready, although that might not happen so quickly. But more importantly, with Dillon Gee now in the major league rotation and Boof Bonser out for the year, the Mets need some more experienced depth at triple-A. As Ben Berkon pointed out, Chris Schwinden is a viable option, but he lacks major league experience. Recently signed Brian Sweeney, who pitched decently for Seattle out of the bullpen has gotten shelled in starts at Buffalo (10 IP, 17 H, 11 ER and 4 HR) while Josh Stinson, who was promoted from double-A this season, has been fair in triple-A (32.1 IP, 29 H, 18 ER, 15 BB, 13 K, although he went seven innings allowing just two runs on three hits while fanning six in his last outing). That leaves Pat Misch, who is currently in the major league bullpen, and Carrasco as solid options with major league starting experience as fallback options in case someone needs to be replaced in the rotation.
Hopefully, the Mets won’t need another starter, but Carrasco helps provide depth. And after all, when spring training began, he said he preferred to be a starter, although I’m sure he meant in the majors as opposed to the minors. Still, it’s nice to know that Carrasco is available and if it was Alderson’s plan the entire time to add more depth to the minor league rotation, it seems he has accomplished his goal.
Tags: Amazins Arizona Diamondbacks Atlanta Braves Binghamton Binghamton Mets Bobby Parnell Brian Sweeney Buffalo Buffalo Bisions Bullpen Chris Schwinden Citi Field D.J. Carrasco Optioned D.J. Carrasco Optioned To Buffalo Depth Dillon Gee Josh Stinson Matt Kaufman Mets Mets Sign Brian Sweeney Multi-year Contract New York Mets Pat Misch Pedro Beato Pittsburgh Pirates Rising Apple Sandy Alderson Sandy Alderson Signs D.J. Carrasco Seattle Mariners Starting Rotation Starting Rotation Depth Two Years