Cesar Carrillo: A Disconnect Between Stuff and Results

By Editorial Staff

Cesar Carrillo’s 3.13 ERA in Triple-A looks good. He just turned 26, so he isn’t too old, and he was a first-rounder in 2005 who still has decent velocity in the 90-94 mph range. Carrillo also tosses a curveball and changeup with solid movement, although the changeup comes in a bit too hard at times.

Sounds good enough, right? Carrillo at least seems like he could be a #4 or #5 starter.

But I just don’t see it.

Carrillo has average-plus velocity and two solid offspeed pitches, as I said, and he has decent command too.

So why do his strikeout rates read like this?

2007: 4.60 K/9 (AAA)
2008: 5.02 K/9 (High-A)
2009: 4.24 K/9 (AA)
2010: 3.98 K/9 (AAA)

To be fair, Carrillo did get 7.98 K/9 in a brief stint in AAA last year, but he also struck out just four batters in 10 1/3 MLB innings (3.48 K/9).

A guy who throws 90-94 and has two secondary offerings that he trusts shouldn’t get miniscule strikeout rates. The only situation that could happen in logically is if Carrillo were a Chien-Ming Wang/Fausto Carmona-type sinker guy who has an extreme pitch-to-contact approach.

Carrillo’s fastball has a tiny bit of sink, but it’s generally pretty straight. He is a groundball-oriented pitcher, but not in any sort of extreme sense–he tends to get groundball rates between 46 and 52 percent, solidly above average but nowhere near the elite sinkerballers, who tend to be in the high 50’s/low 60’s. Carrillo is more Craig Stammen than Aaron Cook.

Unless he finds a way to have his strikeouts catch up to his stuff, Carrillo isn’t going to be a quality big league pitcher. He’s walked as many batters as he’s struck out this year, although he’s at least kept the ball in the park.

Without a strikeout rate in the average range or better, Carrillo will likely remain one of the most overrated players in the Padres system.