2020 season age: 33 – Throws: Right- Bats: Right – Contract: $10.25 million (1st year of a 4-year extension)
2019 in review: Looking at the final stat line, 2019 wasn’t a good year for Carlos Carrasco. Obviously, as you now know, Carrasco was diagnosed with a form of leukemia and made enough of a recovery to come back and pitch out of the bullpen after missing three months getting treatment and rehabbing. As far as stats go, Carrasco had a 4.98 ERA but a 3.48 xFIP has he still had a 24.7 K% in his starts before he was diagnosed. His ERA as a reliever when he came back was 6.60 with 17 strikeouts in 15 innings. But the fact that he came back was remarkable enough, serving as an inspiration for many leukemia patients.
Beyond the stats: Carrasco lost some fastball velocity, but that was certainly to be expected with his diagnosis. However, he retained a lot of the fastball spin, which was in the 71st percentile, which was actually up from 2017 and 2018. He also still has curveball spin in the 93rd percentile, which in theory is good but without knowing the spin efficiency, it’s hard to know the full picture there. His exit velocity against was the worst of his career but his 4.7 BB% was the lowest of his career. I think some of this makes it easy to point to his undetected diagnosis playing a major role in some of this, but also showing that he somehow managed to carry some positive underlying metrics in spite of that, which is extremely encouraging.
On the mound: Finally in 2018, someone convinced Carrasco and whoever was designing his game plan with the catcher that throwing his fastball the majority of the time wasn’t working. In 2017 he threw his fastball almost twice as much as any other pitch in his arsenal and it got clobbered to the tune of a .608 SLG%. His fastball had a .543 SLG% against in 2018 and .557% in 2019, but he threw it much less often the last two seasons. His slider had a .259 and .284 wOBA against in 2018 and 2019 respectively, becoming his most used offering. His changeup and curve ball had troubling wOBA’s against in 2019 (.393, .922, though he hardly used his curveball last year). To compare, in 2018 his changeup had a .224 wOBA against and the curveball had a .245 wOBA against, so when healthy, those are still effective offerings for him.
2020 role: Whenever there’s baseball, if there’s baseball in 2020, Carrasco should be healthy and recovered from his elbow inflammation bout he had before camp shutdown. Of course if things ever do start back up, he’ll have to ramp back up throwing and who knows how his arm would respond. But assuming there’s a season and he’s healthy, he’ll really be counted on to be the Indians third starter now behind Mike Clevinger and Shane Bieber. A healthy Carlos Carrasco should really be a high end third starter. A shortened season might benefit Carrasco and the Indians due to his condition and past injury issues, because in theory they really should only count on 150 or so innings from him and manage his workload so that those 150 are peak Carrasco innings to get the most out of him.
Fantasy impact: You can probably safely draft Carrasco in the later stages of your second tier of starters, or high in your third tier of starters if you’re playing it safe. I think a shortened season really benefits his health and whatever innings he throws, if there’s a season, should be high quality because there’s probably no chance the Indians have to manage him to get 32 starts or 200 innings. Carrasco isn’t Rich Hill, but given his injury history, planning for less innings in the long haul but getting top quality from the innings he does give benefits the Indians, Carrasco and his fantasy owners. I wouldn’t let his health scare you off from drafting him as a second tier option but just you do want to consider that he could get hurt in a second ramp up period if there’s a season, but that goes for any pitcher really.