Ranking Carlos Carrasco

I bared my moderately flawed initial fantasy rankings for public consumption yesterday. Perhaps the most divisive selection is Carlos Carrasco as the fourth ranked starting pitcher.

It’s not my intention to make this another analysis of Carrasco. Mike Podhorzer already covered him. Carson Cistulli provided visual evidence of uncanny changeups. Eno Sarris and Daniel Schwartz have been working on a pitch arsenal score. The current iteration rates Carrasco as possessing the third best assemblage of pitches.

Moreover, Carrasco possesses all the desirable attributes of a fantasy pitcher. He threw 95 mph gas last season, struck out more than a batter per inning with a 13 percent whiff rate, and limited walks (1.95 BB/9). He had an above average ground ball rate and below average line drive rate. Cleveland’s defense should be stouter. With a fantastic arsenal at his disposal and newly discovered confidence, Carrasco looks the part of a fourth overall pitcher.

In a tweet to fantasy guru Ray Flowers, I let my bullish ranking leak on Twitter with the caveat that it’s “crazy.” By crazy, I meant Carrasco would probably fall to the 10-20 range as I polish my rankings. Ray suggested I add at least a four to my rank, implying that he sees 44th as a ceiling for Carrasco. Other commenters agreed that they like Carrasco as a sleeper, but they aren’t inclined to dive off the deep end with me. That’s fine.

I’m having some trouble though. Intellectually, I know I’m supposed to be worried about his short track record. But unlike Jesse Hahn, who I have ranked in the 80’s, I’m having trouble generating concern about Carrasco’s shaky past. I watched the Indians a fair amount down the stretch last season, and I felt Carrasco was out-pitching Cy Young winner Corey Kluber. And not just on outcomes, his stuff struck me as superior too.

When you get these weird rankings, it can help to play a “would you rather” game. I have David Price ranked fifth. All things equal, I should prefer to own Price. I should also prefer to own Stephen Strasburg, Chris Sale, and Madison Bumgarner. But here’s the thing, I don’t even have to squint to picture Carrasco outperforming them. Then there’s the likelihood that Carrasco will cost no more than half as much as this cohort of pitchers. That doesn’t affect my rankings directly, but it does improve the warm and fuzzy feeling associated with him.

Even if I make the adjustment, how much further can I go down the list? I get to Phil Hughes at number 15 and Jake Arrieta at number 16. Perhaps I’m systematically over-ranking short track record, top performers from 2014. I certainly can’t rank Carrasco lower than Arrieta, but maybe Arrieta should also be lower.

Unfortunately, there just aren’t that many more guys I see with anything like Carrasco’s skill set. Adam Wainwright, perhaps, if he bounces back. Possibly Cole Hamels. Masahiro Tanaka if he’s unphased by his elbow. Matt Harvey if he pitches like Clayton Kershaw during his partial season.

I can and will rank Carrasco lower than fourth when I produce something like a final ranking. A brief poll of the market via Twitter seems to think he’s around the 44th pitcher. Meanwhile, I can’t fathom justifying even a 20th ranking. The more I look at this, the more I’m convinced he’s going to wind up somewhere around the eighth to 12th pitcher on my board. It must just be my lack of concern over track record.

At the end of the day, I’ve always leaned towards extreme aggression when setting my ranks and values. Sometimes it leads me astray, but not often enough to teach me caution. It’s for this reason that I’m unconcerned about diverging so far from an established fantasy expert like Flowers. The biggest issue I find is with this job: I write about players like Carrasco, and then I have to push through price enforcers on draft day. Maybe my league mates won’t see this…

We hoped you liked reading Ranking Carlos Carrasco by Brad Johnson!

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Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.”
So said Emerson. I love the fact that you are widely different from the crowd. and its not just that I think you are right. I rate degrom right there with him.