Man, you take a few days off with the family and all hell breaks loose. I thank all you guys for your rich reporting of the agony of what it was like to watch all of the last three games ... until yesterday of course.
How great is it to see a fine debut by a starting pitcher prospect? Can we count the ways?
Fausto Carmona was a pitcher's pitcher as far back as 2003, when he broke out with a 2.08 ERA for Lake County at age 19. But his raw stuff has always been a question -- he's always looked too hittable to play at the major league level. Too many hits, not enough K's to be taken seriously as a prospect.
But a funny thing happened to Carmona late last season: He started throwing harder, hitting as high as 96 mph on the radar, 3-4 mph better than he used to throw. And we were reminded that this is one of the many reasons to love a very young prospect. The latest research shows that pitchers are very unlikely to make improvements in their raw stuff past age 22 -- only in their control and approach. But Carmona was only 21, so he still held the potential to develop more gas. And he did. And while he's still more of a slider-sinkerball guy, that extra velocity likely gives him a huge boost in his ability to miss major league bats.
Given that Carmona's extra velocity was a late-season development, he probably entered Spring Training a little underrated in many fans' minds, lost a bit in the swirl of justifiable hype surrounding Jeremy Sowers. At eight months younger, and especially in light of yesterday's start, it's hard to see why we shouldn't be as excited about Carmona as we are about Sowers -- and Carmona is simply more major-league ready at the moment. Sowers is a very nice prospect, but he's not above having another prospect ahead of him.
Even assuming a quick recovery as is expected for Sabathia, Carmona likely will see at least another 10 major league starts this season, and that is a very good development for this organization, both short-term and long-term. The depth of young pitching in Double-A and Triple-A is shaping up in a very impressive way, despite the relative no-show of our 2001 draft class among those ranks. While seven starts is only seven starts, Carmona's terrific debut sure looks good next to 23 scorless innings combined for The Two Jeremys in Buffalo. We may not need to sign a significant free agent starter for the rest of this decade.
Another significant benefit is the way our starter depth has clarified Jason Davis' destiny as a reliever. I won't claim to know whether he "should" be a starter or a reliever, but I do know that both he and the Indians are better off choosing one path and pursuing it vigorously and without distraction. It looks like the Indians are finally ready to do that. Davis has never shown any sign of having the mental game required of a starter, and it would seem that as a reliever we can afford to have him develop that aspect of his game more gradually.
And continuing on the general theme of jumping to conclusions after two weeks, the young-relief picture looks as good for the Indians as the young-starter picture. Andrew Brown and Brian Slocum have each allowed one run in 6.1 innings for the Bisons, although Brown has strugged with his control so far with seven walks. Slocum however is looking dominant, with 9 K's against 1 BB and only three hits. Looks like he just might show us why the front office thought he deserved a spot on our extremely crowded 40-man roster.