We’re deep into the Low A level, which leaves only short season and rookie ball, but we’re now entering into the area with the most promise, but also the least predictability. Keep that in mind going forward.
Carrasco, Carlos, RHP (age 19) Grade = A
Talk about raising your stock. In 2005, Carrasco struggled mightily at Lakewood and was sent back to Batavia, where he again struggled. The Phillies readily admit he wasn’t ready for full season ball at age 18, but he was sure ready at age 19. He posted a 2.26 ERA in 159.1 IP, allowing only 103 H and 65 BB while striking out 159 and allowing only 6 HR. His composite stats put him at around 44% above league average, good enough for a straight A in my system, but close to the A- range. What pushes him over the A- grade, though, was that he did all his work at age 19, and he won’t turn 20 until March. At 19, the most impressive thing about Carrasco is his feel for his changeup, which is often the missing piece, or the last piece to develop for young pitchers. With an advanced changeup at a young age, you’re one step ahead of the competition. Carrasco’s fastball is already in the 91-93 range, and because he has a projectable body (6’3, 175lbs), there’s reason to believe he may add 1 or 2 mph going forward. His curveball was inconsistent and is behind both his fastball and change, but scouts and experts tend to think it will improve the more he throws it, and this could have led to his 3.67 BB/9 in 2006, the only blemish on his record. He gets a lot of ground balls, he doesn’t give up many home runs, and he strikes guys out….all the qualities of pitcher who will likely succeed going forward.
Ceiling: I’m very bullish on Carrasco, so I’ll go ahead and say a #2 starter, maybe better. With Cole Hamels ahead of him, how could he be a #1? I joke, but really, the sky is the limit. His changeup is the best in the system and one of the best in the minors, it would appear. He throws it with great arm speed and gets superb late fade on the pitch, which will help him neutralize LH batters. The key, which will determine where he pitches in the rotation, is how well his curveball develops. If it becomes an above average pitch, he should/could be a top of the rotation starter. If it lags and is merely a show me pitch, he might be a middle of the rotation starter.
Floor: A back of the rotation starter. Really, his arm is too good for anything else.
Conclusion: His 2006 represents one of the best pitching seasons in the minors at any level. The Phillies tried to double jump him before, I doubt they do the same thing again. He’s going to start at Clearwater, and will probably stay there all season, unless he really does go crazy and dominate in his first few months. He’s probably 2 years away from the majors, at least, but that would make him 21/22 when he’s pushing for a job, and that’s just fine.
Mitchinson, Scott, RHP (age 22) Grade = B
Mitchinson, another Aussie product, took a step in the right direction in one sense this year, but also a step back. Mitchinson struggled on the field in 2005, both with performance and his health, and in 2006, he righted one area, the one the field performance, but struggled in the other area, as he threw only 61.1 innings at Lakewood. When he did pitch, he did a real nice job, allowing only 53 hits and 18 walks against 64 strikeouts in his age 21 season. Mitchinson’s 37% above league average composite would be good enough to put him in the B+/A- range, but he has to be dropped to a straight B based on his health issues. If he can remain healthy for an entire season, we’ll know more about what kind of value he has going forward. He’s shown an ability to get swings and misses at every stop thus far, and his hit rate in 2006 is probably more in line with what to expect going forward, as he didn’t have a fluky BABIP rate (.313) which could skew his H/9 way up or way down. His control seems to be pretty solid, but the one area of concern is his G:F rate, which is almost 1:1. Being a flyball pitcher isn’t a “bad” thing, as long as you can get guys to swing and miss at a high rate, which it appears he can. Because he will only be 22 at most likely at High A, he’s on track, age wise. Whether he remains a starter or not will ultimately impact his long term value.
Ceiling: I’m not really sure here. I guess a #3 starter or a late innings reliever. If he can’t stay healthy, he’s bullpen bound, but his stuff appears solid, all things considered.
Floor: Swing-man/long reliever seems plausible.
Conclusion: Injury seems to be his number 1 obstacle at this point. If he is healthy for the entire 2007 season, we should be able to better gauge his value in the long run. From what we’ve seen so far, he looks like yet another promising arm in the pitching pipeline.
Zagurski, Mike, LHP (age 24) Grade = B-
Zagurski is an interesting guy, a guy who I might not be as high on as some others that follow the Phillies minor league guys, but a guy who could be a decent role player down the road. A 12th round pick in 2005, he struggled at Batavia last year, probably due to a tired arm, but was pretty solid in 2006 at Lakewood. His composite numbers put him at 64% above league average, but obviously adjustments are needed. Numbers wise, he put up a 3.51 ERA in 56.1 IP, allowing 7.35 H/9, 3.51 BB/9, 0.00 HR/9 and 11.98 K/9, those are solid peripheral numbers in all cases except the walk rate. The first adjustment we need to make is for age. He was 23 in 2006, which is too old for Low A, so we move his grade from an A to a B+. The second adjustment comes from him being reliever exclusive, so we bump him from B+ to a B. The fact that he is left handed is a credit to him, but it’s offset by his splits. He actually put up better numbers against RH batters (.588 OPS allowed) compared to LH batters (.712 OPS allowed), so I’m not sure if it’s a fluke, or if it’s a developing pattern. Conversely, he is an extreme groundball pitcher, with an over 2:1 ratio, and he didn’t allow a HR in the 56 IP in 2006, and that definitely lends support to him being a good reliever going forward. Honestly, I was on the fence between a B and a B-, but I just worry about a guy who, at 23, walked 3.5 batters per 9 at Low A. He’s now 24, and it’s unclear whether he’ll go to Clearwater or Reading. If he goes to Clearwater, he’ll still be too old for his level, and if he’s 24 at Reading, he might still be at the top end of the prospect age group, so he’ll need to again dominate. I think if his control lags behind, he’s going to struggle at higher levels. In terms of what he throws, I really don’t know for sure. I’ve read before he throws a hard sinker (that’s evident by the GB:FB ratio), a curve, and a changeup. If someone can clarify that, I’d appreciate it.
Ceiling: A high leverage reliever, but probably short of closing material
Floor: AAAA pitcher who can pitch in most bullpen roles and bounces between AAA and the bigs
Conclusion: There’s a lot to like about Zagurski, starting with the high K rate/GB tendencies combo, but he was way too old for his level, so I want to see what he does against better hitters. I’m also slightly worried about the splits, but it could be a sample size thing. Every organization needs good, cheap bullpen options, especially lefties, so if he proves to just be a 6th/7th inning reliever, there’s nothing wrong with that, but it also limits his prospect value, which is ultimately why I decided to go with a B- instead of a B heading into 2007.