Carrasco reminds us that prospects can take a while
Geologically speaking, five years isn’t long at all.
To most of us, though? Five years can seem a long time. If you have a baby, five years later you’re getting the kid ready to learn everything in kindergarten. If you’re a snot-nosed eighth-grader, five years later you’ll be a know-it-all college freshman. And if you’re a major-league rookie, five years later you’ll be commissioning your gated manse in southern Florida or California.
A lot can happen in five years. But it can also seem like not enough is happening. Or that whatever is happening isn’t happening fast enough.
Welcome to the wonderful world of young baseball pitchers.
Wednesday night, Cleveland’s Carlos Carrasco came within one measly pitch of throwing the Indians’ first no-hitter since 1981. If nothing else, Carrasco also alerted the world that he’s really good. But oh, how long it took!
Exactly four years, 11 months and four weeks ago, the Indians sent Cliff Lee and Ben Francisco – and really, this deal was all about Cliff Lee – to the Phillies, and in exchange the Indians received Jason Knapp, Jason Donald, Tofu Lou Marson and … Carlos Carrasco, the plum prospect in the whole affair.
Carrasco spent another month in the minors – during which he pitched brilliantly, by the by – and then joined the Indians’ rotation. If you were an eighth-grade Indians fan, you naturally expected Carrasco to … oh, how about winning a dozen games in a season before you got an acceptance letter from your fourth-choice college?
Well, that didn’t happen. Not close. Here are Carrasco’s wins with the big club in each of your fondly remembered (or traumatic) high-school years:
OK, so that’s the fall of your senior year. The next spring before you graduated, Carrasco pitched in a dozen games and won … zero games.
So during your ENTIRE HIGH-SCHOOL LIFE, this highly prized prospect, the centerpiece (from your perspective) of the trade that was supposed to help turn the franchise around, won 11 games. Oh, and lost 18.
How long is five years in the baseball world? Carrasco’s first major-league manager was Eric Wedge, who lost his job, in some small part, because Carrasco didn’t pitch well. Carrasco’s second manager was Manny Acta, who lost his job, in some small part, because Carrasco didn’t pitch well. Now Carrasco’s manager is Terry Francona. So far, so good there, anyway.
Carrasco’s case might be extreme, but it’s hardly unique. His teammate Corey Kluber was never the prospect Carrasco was, and didn’t become a dependable major leaguer until he was 27. Andrew Miller was a first-round draft pick and a Grade A prospect at 21 … and didn’t pitch effectively in the majors until he was 27. Max Scherzer was a first-round pick and top prospect at 21, but didn’t really come into his own until he was 27. Dallas Keuchel was 26 when he figured it out. Jake Arrieta was 28.
Five, six, seven years can seem like an awfully long time. Depending on your age and your station in life, it is an awfully long time. But for every Felix Hernandez or Clayton Kershaw or Chris Sale who arrive in the major leagues at 20 or 21 or 22 with peach fuzz on their cheeks and everything they need to blow away the best hitters in the world, there’s someone like Carrasco or Kluber or Keuchel who will get there, eventually. It’s just that you might be a college sophomore by then. Or you might have gotten fired and are hoping the next time you get a shot, your incredibly talented, wildly hyped young pitcher does take five or six years to find himself.