Projected by most to be a reliever and armed with a devastating slider, Joel Carreno comes in at No. 28 on our list…
No. 28: Joel Carreno
Born: March 7, 1987 in San Cristobal, Dominican Republic
Bats: Right Throws: Right
High School: N/A
Acquired: Signed as a non-drafted free-agent by the Blue Jays on October 11, 2004
Pre-2011 Rank: 21
- Name is pronounced Jo-elle Carr-ehn-eeoh
- 2008 New York-Penn League Mid-Season All-Star
- 2008 New York-Penn League Pitcher of the Week for July 6-12
- 2011 Eastern League Pitcher of the Week for May 16-22
- 2011 Eastern League Mid-Season All-Star
New Hampshire Fisher Cats team ranking (min. 5 GS):
- 1st in losses (9), starts (23), innings pitched (134.2), hit batters (12), walks (68), wild pitches (16) and strikeouts (152)
- 2nd in H/9 (6.3) and K/9 (10.2)
- T-2nd in wins (7) and home runs allowed (12)
- 3rd in hits allowed (100)
- 5th in ERA (3.41) and WHIP (1.25)
- 8th in K:BB (2.24)
- 10th in BB/9 (4.5)
Coming off of a breakout 2010 campaign that saw him finish second in the High-A Florida State League with 173 strikeouts (including a league-record 15 in one six-inning game), Joel Carreno moved further up the minor league ladder in 2011, pitching in two different roles.
As a starter with Double-A New Hampshire, Carreno stumbled out of the gate last season to the tune of a 6.56 ERA in five April starts and gave up eight home runs in only 23 innings because of, like the year before, failing to mix up his pitches enough.
He bounced back with a lights out May, where he allowed just four earned runs in five starts, nearly doubling his strikeout total from the month before but issuing 21 walks in just under 32 innings . His best start of the season came on May 28, when he fanned a season-high 11 batters while allowing just two hits in seven scoreless innings.
Carreno generates so many whiffs because of his plus slider, an offering that sits in the low-80s and is particularly nasty against right-handed hitters. It’s easily his best pitch, to the point where he overuses it and relies on it when he runs into trouble. He complements the slider with an 89-94 mph fastball that has late life, though he runs into bouts of inconsistency with it and has trouble finding the strike zone with it. A two-pitch pitcher for the majority of his career, Carreno added a mid-80s changeup just over one year ago in an effort to diversify his arsenal, but the pitch is an average offering at best right now.
Carreno continued to pitch well for the Fisher Cats through the summer, and although he issued his fair share of walks in the process, he used his slider to rack up the strikeouts and give his team a chance to win every time he was out on the mound. Making the infamous jump between High-A and Double-A, Carreno maintained his very good strikeout rate at 10.2 per nine innings while giving up a career-low 6.7 hits per nine, but was more wild than he has ever been in the past, easily leading his team in hit batters (12), wild pitches (16) and walks (68), with the latter averaging out to a career-high 4.5 per nine frames.
Given the Blue Jays’ emphasis on developing and using a changeup, some of Carreno’s wildness last season could possibly be attributed to his coaches and the organization forcing him to rely less on his slider and use his changeup and fastball more. Regardless, what you get from Carreno is straightforward: an overpowering slider that will pile up strikeouts, but bouts of inconsistency and wildness combined with his inability to mix up pitches as much as he should raises questions about his ability to stick as a starter.
The Blue Jays might have felt the same way, as Carreno made his major league debut out of the bullpen after being called up in late August last year. After issuing three walks and giving up eight hits, including a home run in four August appearances (7 1/3 innings), he allowed just three hits over his final seven appearances with nine strikeouts in 8 1/3 innings. Overall, Carreno finished with a 1.15 ERA in 15 2/3 innings in his first big league stint, demonstrating that he could be a valuable reliever down the road.
2012 team: Las Vegas 51s/Toronto Blue Jays
Ultimate ceiling if he puts it all together: Setup man, possible closer
Despite having already started for both the Jays and Triple-A Las Vegas this season, Carreno currently finds himself back in the bullpen after replacing left-hander Evan Crawford, who was optioned to Triple-A yesterday. I’d like to see the Jays continue to try and market Carreno as a starter, but the fact that he has MLB experience will help his trade value regardless and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was shipped out of town in a package by Opening Day 2013.