With great mercy and foresight, the Toronto Blue Jays optioned Brad Mills back down the Triple-A Las Vegas, tipping Luis Perez to start in Mills’ place on Saturday. The only mystery surronding this move is how on Earth Brad Mills managed such an impressive line in the hitter’s delight that is the PCL. Sometimes you can make tip-toeing through a minefield work for a little while.

The corresponding move finds the Jays promoting 24-year old pitcher Joel Carreno with the intention of moving him to the bullpen. Manager John Farrell suggests the team will bring Carreno along slowly due to a lack of familiarity with pitching in relief, a role he filled in Spring Training but not since that time.

Joel Carreno is an interesting prospect in that he wasn’t much of a “prospect” before this season. His numbers at A and Rookie ball were always good but he was considered too old for the level. His numbers with high-A in 2010 were very strong (in a pitcher’s league) but he didn’t get a lot of attention on Jays system rankings because of his age (and the whole pitcher’s league thing.)

The team finally moved Carreno to New Hampshire of the Eastern League where he continued compiling strikeouts against the strong talent pool. The right-hander uses his fastball/slider combination to K more than 10 batters per 9 innings, offsetting his slightly scary 12% walk rate.

Jared McDonald of Jays Journal provides a very comprehensive scouting report here, citing Carreno’s lack of effective change up as a potential stumbling block for his development as a starting pitcher.

Bringing us to today and…the future. Does Joel Carreno profile as a potential closer?

His fastball doesn’t touch the upper 90s but his ability to miss bats at the minor league level bodes well. His advanced age suggests the team might give Carreno every opportunity to prove he can hack it in the bullpen right away.

Could Jonathon Papelbon be a reasonable comparison to Carreno? Back in 2004, Papelbon struck out 153 hitters in 129 innings at age 23, compared to 43 walks. Carreno managed 152 strikeouts in 134 innings with 68 walks in that very same Florida State League. Both starters at slightly advanced ages, both players with strong fastball/slider combinations. The Red Sox closer added a splitter before the 2005 season which really took his game to a higher level.

The thought of moving a starter to the bullpen is generally not a good one, especially if the player has not proven they cannot hack it in the rotation where they provide so much more value. The question becomes: do the Jays project Carreno as a big league starter?

Addressing a hole like the back of the Jays bullpen with an in-house option is a much more attractive option than paying for saves on the open market. Even a current setup pitcher (like David Roberston) with “Closer Potential” costs a lot more than converting an effective-but-limited starter.

The Jays aren’t going to thrust Carreno into a high-leverage situation right away but expect many peeled eyeballs when he takes the mound against a legit left-handed batter for the first time. A few more miles per hour on his fastball when he isn’t stretching out for 6-7 innings could go a long way in shaping the future of the Jays ‘pen.

Comments (12)

  1. Joel Carreno is black? Even Freddie Freeman is shocked by this news.

  2. According to minor league dude Dave Gershman, Carreno has a reputation for tiring in the 5th or 6th innings and losing his release point. Fuel for the reliever fire!

  3. He does sound like a classic closer candidate. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do out of the pen.

  4. Definitely sounds like a candidate for the bullpen. Especially if, as you say, its a few extra miles on his fastball that may be holding him back.

    He’d probably technically be more valuable as a below average starter in WAR terms but he’s more valuable to us as a reliever I’d say. We don’t really have a burning need for below average starters since we could probably find 3 or 4 of them in the system right now, plus several hopefully above average starters on the way in the next year or two – so his value over what WE could replace him with is probably lower as a starter than as a reliever. If the team thinks he projects better as a reliever I wouldn’t hesitate.

  5. I always read his name as “Cerrano”, and I’m mildly disappointed I can’t make any Jo Bu references.

    Can’t we Rzep Brad Mills and make him a bullpen lefty?

  6. I know Jesse Litsch doesn’t really have closer type stuff, but if you can get three outs in an inning without getting into much trouble the stuff you have doesn’t matter. The Jays seem to really want him to stay in the bullpen considering he’s by far the best starting option right now and they aren’t playing him. He has been fantastic in the bullpen and is slowly seeing and increase in leverage.

    Possibly the failed starter converted to closer candidate the Jays are looking for? I can see Carrano with his stuff, but let’s see him pitch in the big leagues before anointing him.

  7. Different areas of the interwebs suggested Carreno may have a small window as a starter due to the abundance of young starters (Alvarez, McGuire, Hutchison etc) working their way through the minors.

    While I’d like to see Carreno get a couple of starts, I am in favour of the way the Jays seem to be constructing their bullpen. They move all the guys with AL East back of the rotation potential (Janssen, Litsch, Villaneuva, Perez, Carreno, Zep) into the bullpen and save the coveted 5 rotation spots for guys with 3-5 WAR+ potential.

    If there is an opportunity for trade, they have no qualms about trading pitchers that would play better in the NL like Marcum or Zep if he gets another shot at a starter. Brett Cecil could be the next to go at some point since his value (if he finishes strong) is even higher than Marcum’s with his age, left-handedness and proximity to free agency.

    Sure, maybe these bullpen guys could be 2 WAR starters in the ALE, but there are a finite number of rotation spots and the goal should be to maximize the WAR potential out of each of these 5 spots. Romero, Morrow, Cecil, Drabek, Alvarez & possibly McGowan all stand a better chance of doing that (based on what scouts say and probably what the Jays believe) than these starters-turned-relievers.

    PS: Fairservice – what did I tell you about Corey Patterson being traded for Colby Rasmus? HAHAHAHAHA!

  8. You seriously called Patterson-for-Rasmus? Get the fuck outta here.

    Now, if you also predicted E-5 earning himself a 3-year contract…

  9. I was screwing around a few months ago and mentioned Patterson (when he was playing somewhat better) as part of a Jays/Cards swap for Rasmus.

    I was paralleling the Escobar trade (Gonzalez, Collins, Pastornicky for Escobar, Reyes) to a certain degree; I think I had Zep, Gose & Patterson for Rasmus & Tallet.

    Not only did I get 4 of the particulars correct, the Jays gave up even less IMO (I value Gose higher than Stewart, Dotel & Frasor combined, though others may disagree).

    For my next prediction, I will need Madison Bumgarner to struggle a little down the stretch (with his ERA and wins, not his advanced metrics) and have some “clubhouse” issues. It would also help if the Giants miss the playoffs due to their inept offense…and it looks like that might be the case!

    Then in the offseason it will be Adam Lind and Brett Cecil (who both have to finish hot in terms of sexy stats like HRs and wins) for Bumgarner and possibly an Aubrey Huff contract dump.

    Lind has the very team friendly contract (espescially since opposing GMs value HR’s more than they should) and Cecil would replace Bumgarner in the rotation.

    Alex Anthopolous’ staff read Blue Jays blogs and this is where they get all their fantasy trade ideas. Next up: Bumgarner!

  10. I like it, but I’m saying they try for King Felix. I also think they try to get Han Ram. Also, I’ve been calling Carreno as closer of the future for months. I’m glad to see they’re giving him a shot in the bullpen. They have so much depth at SP prospects. He seems like an ideal candidate for late inning conversion. (Except maybe a few too many walks….)

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