Carlos Carrasco SP (CLE) – In his first 2 starts this season, Carrasco showed excellent command (3.33 K/BB ratio) along with an outstanding ability to get groundballs (64.1 GB%). Although he received two no decisions, the result was a very solid 3.38 ERA and 1.13 WHIP. So, was Carlos able to keep it up in his 3rd start? In a word, yes. Carrasco allowed only 5 hits and 0 ER in 7.1 IP versus a Twins team competing for a division title. His K:BB ratio of 4:3 was not pretty, but Carrasco was able to overcome that by inducing ground ball after ground ball. He induced two double plays, and of the 22 outs he recorded, 15 were the result of a ground ball. I think for the rest of 2010 Carrasco’s K/BB ratio will be more what it was like last night, rather than in the previous two starts, but he should be started in all formats against weaker competition due to his okay control and elite GB rate.
Desmond Jennings OF (TB) – It does not appear as if Jennings will get much meaningful playing time as Joe Maddon is going with experience down the stretch. Jennings did get a start immediately upon his callup (9/1), but he has been used only as a late game substitute since then. Yesterday, in that role, Jennings doubled for his first major league hit. He is the top hitting prospect in the Rays organization, and he probably could contribute immediately if an injury left him with meaningful at bats this September. At the age of 22 and 23, Jennings has posted an impressive .288/.375/.415 line at AAA. His EYE (.804) is a strong indicator that his game could translate to the major league level quicker and smoother than many hitting prospects. He is already a polished base stealer with 89 steals to just 11 caught stealings in his last two seasons at the minor league level. With Carl Crawford’s departure from Tampa in the near future likely, Jennings is ready to become a star in the outfield right away. In 2011 he’ll be a strong candidate for AL ROY, although his power may be limited initially.
Koji Uehara RP (BAL) – Uehera picked up his 9th save of the season last night, and I would be surprised if he didn’t get a legitimate shot at being the team’s full time closer next season. Uehera’s FIP of 2.52 goes a ways towards supporting the notion that his current 2.62 ERA is not a fluke. Uehera has an outstanding K/BB ratio of 7.40, something we do not normally see out of a reliever with the ability to K more than a batter an inning. The only worry is that Uehera, who is extremely FB risky (28.9 career GB%) will start giving up more homers. In his first two seasons he has shown an ability to keep his HR/FB% down as he posted a 6.2% mark in ’09 which has improved to 5.7% this season. Unfortunately, the word ability in the preceding sentence may be misleading as the sample size is small (101 IP). However, there are pitchers who have shown the ability to consistently keep their HR/FB rates below league average (around 10%). It remains to be seen if Uehera is such a pitcher, but his K/BB ratio and lack of hype will probably make him an excellent value pick in next year’s drafts.
Carl Crawford OF (TB) – Crawford is having the best season of his career and a large part of that is due to an increase in power. His current ISO of .187 is a career best, and his 15 HR match his second highest total ever. I think the key to this increase in power is patience. He has walked 7.6% of the time and 7.3% of the time the past two seasons, but his career mark is just 5.4% and never exceeded 6.2% prior to 2009. As a result, Crawford is both keeping pitchers honest and finding himself in better hitters counts as evidenced by the fact that he fell behind 0-1 just 60.3% of the time in 2009, which he is besting this season with a 59.3% mark. Crawford’s career mark is much higher at 63.2%, and his career low was 62% prior to raising his BB rates in 2009. So, with this in mind it’s not surprising that Crawford has posted HR/FB%’s of over 10% this season and last season after having only done so one time prior in 7 seasons (career mark of 7.9%).
Brett Anderson SP (OAK) – Anderson beat the Red Sox last night, gaining his 5th victory of the season. He has taken strides forward this season by both reducing his walks (from 2.31/9 to 1.60 per 9) and increasing his GB rate (from 50.9% to 56.5%). Another positive for Anderson is that he has allowed below average LD rates two seasons in a row (15.1% and 16.5%). If he could maintain those gains along with the low LD rate, it would only take an increase in K’s to bump Anderson from very good to near elite. I think it happens as Anderson (not counting rehab stints) struck out more than a batter an inning in every stop at the minors before making the Opening Day roster last season.