After Darin Mastroianni at #22 comes an often overlooked, breaking ball pitcher at #21…
#21: Joel Fernando Carreno
Pitcher / 23 years old / 6′0″ 190 lbs
Born: March 7th, 1987 in San Cristobal, Dominican Republic
Bats: Right Throws: Right
High School: N/A
Drafted By: Signed as a non-drafted free-agent by the Blue Jays on October 11th, 2004
- 2008 New York-Penn League Mid-Season All-Star
- 2008 New York-Penn League Pitcher of the Week for July 6th to 12th
- Name is pronounced Jo-elle Carr-eh-nee-oh
Carreno’s Career Statistics:
- 1st in starts (25), innings pitched (137.2), hits (147), earned runs (57), hit batters (12), and strikeouts (173)
- Tied for 1st in complete games (1)
- 2nd in wins (9) and home runs (8)
- 3rd in losses (6)
- 4th in ERA (3.73), walks (30), and WHIP (1.286)
An interview from early 2009 with Lansing Lugnuts announcer Jesse Goldberg-Strassler, where Carreno talks about the things he does on the mound, his primary pitch, and how he got signed by the Blue Jays. Even when he needed to better understand one of Jesse’s questions through a Spanish translator, Carreno impressively replied to all questions in English.
Extra information and previous experience:
After working out for the Blue Jays at their complex in the Dominican Republic, Joel Carreno was signed to a contract in October 2004. He did not pitch much in the Dominican Summer League the following year in 2005, logging just 30.1 innings split between starting and relief.
His second stint in the Dominican Summer League was more impressive, making 15 starts the following year in 2006 , allowing just 48 hits while striking out 86 batters in 82.1 innings. While he walked 28 in those 82.1 innings, Carreno held opposing batters to a .168 average that season. Over his final 8 starts of the year, Carreno allowed just 4 earned runs in 47 innings.
The Jays decided to move Carreno to the United States for extended spring training to start the 2007 season, before sending him to the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays later in the year for some action. He had success there as well, rebounding from a few rough starts at the start of the season by allowing 3 earned runs or less in a span of 8 consecutive starts. He continued to be more effective versus right-handed batters than left-handed batters, and he held opposing hitters to a .182 average with runners in scoring position. His 1.8 BB/9 and 8.8 K/9 were impressive as well, but he did give up his fair share of hits (60 in 65.1 innings).
While Carreno’s career numbers were good up until the 2007 season, he had pitched against weak competition. The Jays elected to have him start out the 2008 season with the short-season Auburn Doubledays to see how he would respond.
After his season with the Doubledays, a trend started to develop with Carreno: high strikeout and low walk totals, while giving up almost as many hits as innings pitched. Carreno managed a career-high 10.0 K/9 with the Doubledays that season, while giving up 74 hits in 76.1 innings. His 2.94 FIP was lower than his already respectable 3.42 ERA in his 15 games (13 starts) as well.
He stuck with Auburn for only two starts the following year in 2009, where he struck out 12 and managed a 0.82 ERA, before getting the call to spend the rest of the year with Class-A Lansing.
Carreno’s 2009 season was instrumental in his development. He relied heavily on his slider, which he had only learned how to throw earlier in 2009, and he felt comfortable throwing it for strikes in any count. To this day it is easily his out pitch, and it’s just downright nasty overall. Carreno’s fastball, usually in the low 90s, is his second-best pitch, and he throws an average change-up.
Overall with Lansing in 2009, Carreno walked 29, struck out 62, and gave up 76 hits in 79.2 innings across 14 starts. His 3.62 ERA with the Lugnuts was virtually identical to his 3.59 FIP, and the amount of hits he allowed was quite close to his innings total yet again. His strikeout numbers represented a career-low (7.0 K/9), but Carreno said that one of the most important things he learned in 2009 with Lansing was how to better understand opposing hitters:
"“Throwing first-pitch strikes [is important], because when you get behind the hitter they know what pitch you’re going to throw next.“"
He definitely applied that philosophy more as the season went on where, after going 0-2 in his first 7 starts with Lansing, Carreno earned his first Lugnuts win in impressive fashion by carrying a no-hit bid into the eighth inning and finishing with just one hit allowed in 7.1 innings of work. Despite some ups and downs with Lansing, the Jays opted to have Carreno open the 2010 season with the Hi-A Dunedin Blue Jays.
Carreno had a very interesting 2010 season to say the least. He compiled a whopping 173 strikeouts in 137.2 innings, good for 2nd in the entire Florida State League and an 11.3 K/9, while walking only 30, good for a K/BB ratio of 5.77:1. He also allowed more hits (147) than innings pitched (137.2). Despite not being a ground ball pitcher, Carreno gave up only 8 home runs, which was the main reason his 2.36 FIP was a stark contrast to his 3.73 ERA.
His most memorable game of the season was when he struck out 15 batters on July 11th, which shattered the previous Dunedin Blue Jays record and become a new Florida State League record for strikeouts in a game. What was even more impressive, though, was that he struck out those 15 batters in only six innings. Unfortunately the two runs he allowed in his start resulted in a loss for the DJays, as they fell 2-1 to the Lakeland Flying Tigers.
One really interesting thing about Carreno is his ability to pick batters off, something that often gets overlooked in a box score. From 2007-2010, Carreno has notched 3, 1, 6, and 10 pickoffs in those respective seasons. He works really hard on his pickoff move, and credits his success in that regard to a quick, short step and a sharp, accurate throw.
Carreno also appeared in some Winter League action in his native Dominican Republic in 2010, with decent results (as any 23-year-old should have there), with his numbers being as follows:
Carreno finished winter ball as a reliever, which could be a sign of things to come for the right-hander. The main knock on Carreno is that though his slider is great and his fastball is good, his changeup needs a lot of work. This is the main reason why he gives up so many hits, because he doesn’t mix up his pitches as much as he should, and hitters have more of a chance of knowing what is coming. He also hit 12 batters and threw 6 wild pitches this past season in Dunedin. As a result, some scouts feel Carreno’s future, should he make it to the Major Leagues, is as a reliever.
The other drawback to some would be Carreno’s age, considering he’s getting his first taste of Double-A action next season as a 24-year-old. This hasn’t entirely been Carreno’s fault though, as he’s been very good at every level he has played at, but the Jays have advanced him very slowly up the Minor League ladder. Always considered Minor League filler, Carreno did a great job of making a name for himself this season and is likely now considered an actual prospect by Jays’ management.
Expected 2011 Team: Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats
Ultimate ceiling if he puts it all together: #4-5 starter
The 2011 season is going to be pivotal for Joel Carreno, as it’s almost a foregone conclusion he’ll open the season at Double-A New Hampshire. He was consistently striking out batters all year this past season, and his hunger to succeed through working hard allowed him to get noticed as more than just a fill-in starter, which should net him a solid amount of innings in 2011.
If he wants to continue his development as a starter, though, he’ll have to become a lot more comfortable throwing his fastball and his changeup will have to become above average in order to effectively mix up his pitches against more difficult hitters.