I've had several people ask me about Carlos Carrasco over the past couple of weeks, given all the attention that Kyle Drabek has been receiving. Just last year, Carrasco was the organization's top pitching prospect, the player whose name percolated in trade rumors. It is understandable how the viewing public might perceive him to be a forgotten man. But just because Kyle Drabek has surpassed him as the system's top prospect doesn't mean all hope is lost for Carrasco. I caught up with assistant general manager Chuck Lamar before the game Monday night to get his thoughts on Carrasco. Because this is the trade deadline, and because some reports suggest that the Phillies hope to move Carrasco in a deal for a starter, I'll preface Lamar's remarks with a few things.
First, the general opinion inside the Phillies organization since spring training has held that Carrasco has two big improvements to make before he is considered major-league ready. He needs to be more aggressive pitching inside, and he needs to improve his consistency on the mound, where he has a tendency to allow mistakes to snowball into a big inning. He is the type of pitcher who can look unhittable for six innings, then give up a crooked number in the seventh. Or give up a crooked number in the first, and look unhittable for the next six.
Second, Carrasco is just 22 years old. In fact, he is just eight months older than Drabek. In other words, he is still quite young. Part of what the Phillies like about Drabek is his mound presence, his aggressiveness, his consistency, his feel for the game. In short, the Phillies are still waiting for Carrasco to "put it all together." They are waiting for that light switch to go off. Of course, that "switch" is one of the big things that separate the big-time prospects from the big-time players. And it is why the Phillies value Drabek so highly - because they feel like that switch has already gone off, and that all that is separating him from the major leagues is more experience.
Anyway, fast forward to my conversation with Lamar, who helps oversee the development side of the Phillies organization. Lamar was adamant that the Phillies still hold Carrasco in extremely high regard.
"He's one of the top pitching prospects, not only in our organization, but in all of minor league baseball," he said.
One adjustment the Phillies have made with Carrasco is in his repetoire, where they have added a slider to his fastball, curve-ball and change-up.
"He's thrown the curve ball almost exclusively since we signed him," Lamar said. "He's one of those unique guys who can spin the ball, and he can throw both (the slider and the curve)."
Lamar said he has seen an improvement in Carrasco's ability to pitch inside, an art that takes many pitchers a long time to master.
I"t never seems to come easy to anybody," Lamar said. "Carlos has adapted quicker than we thought he would. And I know his last couple fo starts he's done a good job of challenging a guy inside."
Now, the challenge is for Carrasco to put it all together.
"Really, the thing that is keeping him out of the major leagues, like most young pitchers is the consistency," Lamar said. "He's giving up the big inning. If you go back and look at the stats, he'll give up three or four, and then shut a team out for seven innings. That's just a sign of a young pitcher who is still learning his craft. He's a better pitcher at this time than (he was) in spring training."
Kyle Drabek allowed two runs in seven innings tonight in front of Blue Jays special assistant Sal Butera. Butera is a member of Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi's inner circle. He fills a role similar to the one Charley Kerfeld fills with the Phillies. So while talks between the Phillies and the Blue Jays may have hit a lull, Drabek is still very much on Toronto's radar.
Cleveland, who could make 2008 Cy Young winner Cliff Lee available, also had a scout watching Drabek. And sources say that the scout is expected to be joined by a second Indians scout tomorrow. The feeling among people with the Phillies I've talked to today - none of whom are among the select few privy to real-time negotiations between Ruben Amaro Jr. and the Jays - is that a deal will get done at some point before Friday's deadline, but that it will likely come down to the final hour or two. At that point in time, Cleveland will have had enough time to do enough home work to contemplate a specific offer for Lee, and Toronto will have had more time to re-evulate their demands. Jarrod Washburn remains an option, although a much less ideal one. Again, though, it would seem that Drabek's name would have to be a starting point in any deal for Lee.