2012 Analysis: Robert Carson
We’ll get to Edgin soon enough. For now, let’s discuss Carson.
Robert Carson first came on the MetsToday radar in July 2010, when there were rumors he might be headed to the Pirates for Octavio Dotel. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s easy today to say, “oh, good thing the Mets didn’t do that deal, since they finished in fourth and he stunk after July anyway.” But at the time, the Mets were in third place with a 53-51 record, 6.5 games out, and were only two weeks removed from being 6 games over .500 and in second place. If you remember, the team had done well in the first half, and was struggling immediately after the All-Star break (sound familiar?). The bullpen was in need of help, and, at the time, it seemed as though the Mets might be able to stay in the postseason race if they filled a few holes. Instead, they stood pat, and rolled down the hill.
But I digress …
Two years later, Robert Carson auditioned as a LOOGY. He appeared in 17 games, allowing 13 hits, 4 walks, and 8 earned runs in 13.1 innings, while also striking out 5 and hitting 2 batters. He also allowed one of six inherited baserunners to score, which is good. Overall, the stats don’t offer much. It’s a fairly small sample size on which to pass judgment. Had he pitched better, the argument might have been, “well, NL hitters never saw him before, so he succeeded in part due to mystery.” Had he pitched worse, the excuse may have been nervousness, fatigue, or small sample size. As it was, he was OK — nothing to get excited about, but nothing to write him off, either. At best, I’d label his “cup of coffee” as “encouraging.” He showed good velocity and decent movement on his fastball, but was inconsistent with his slider — which was more of a change-up than anything else (it was usually clocked around 82-83 MPH, and more loopy than sharp-breaking).
2012 was Carson’s first season as a reliever, and he didn’t do much to impress in AA nor AAA — other than get swings and misses (combined 52 Ks in 51 IP). Strikeouts are good to see, but it’s hard to judge their value when they come against batters who aren’t good enough to play at the MLB level; i.e., there’s a reason they’re not MLBers, and it often has to do with an inability to make consistent contact. But again, you have to look at those numbers as “encouraging,” because it was Carson’s first foray in the bullpen, and he’s still young (he turns 24 in January).
One minor concern: he finished the year on the DL, thanks to a triceps strain. I don’t see this as something to prevent him from competing in 2013.
Even though Carson’s 17-game MLB debut was underwhelming, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the Mets 2013 Opening Day roster. Further, I can envision him one day becoming a decent LOOGY. He has value now, and will continue to have value, solely due to his southpaw status. He won’t be effective unless / until he develops a hard slider. Looking at him as a potential LOOGY, the 94+ velocity is a bonus, but on its own not enough to succeed against slugging big-league lefthanded hitters. But again, he’s only 24, and most LOOGYs don’t find their niche until their late 20s (or early 30s). Whether its on his own or by direction from the Mets, Carson should drop all of his other pitches and focus entirely on two fastballs (four-seam and a two-seamer) and the slider — it’s his best chance toward a very long MLB career. Maybe this happens at the MLB level, or maybe it happens at AAA. Either way, I don’t expect Carson to have an immediate impact at the MLB level at any point in 2013, but I do hope to see him develop and hone a limited skill set for 2014 and beyond.