As announced last night, the Toronto Blue Jays club has promoted right-handed pitcher Joel Carreno from double-A. A minor league starter his entire career, the Dominican Republic native will start his Major League journey by pitching out of the bullpen. He will be available for Friday night's game against the Oakland Athletics.
Joel Carreno | RHP
Career: 6 seasons
Strengths: Slider, Durability
Weaknesses: Fastball Command, Fly-Ball Tendencies
Carreno debuted in the Dominican Summer League in 2006 and was one of two Jays starters that dominated the league that year. The other pitcher was current teammate Luis Perez (1.38 ERA, 107 Ks in 85 IP). Both pitchers were low-bonus acquisitions but astute pick-ups by the Jays' international scouts. Carreno posted a 1.53 ERA with 86 strikeouts in 82.1 innings pitched. He was brought over to North America for '07 and started his methodical climb through the system, advancing one level each season.
Carreno reached double-A in '11 and produced outstanding numbers. In 134.2 innings, he posted a 3.41 ERA (3.88 FIP) and a strikeout rate of 10.16 K/9. The right-hander sits comfortable in the low-90s with his fastball but he possesses a plus slider that he often leans on too much. Carreno struggles with his fastball command, which causes him to get hit more often than he should, and also leads to a high number of walks (4.54 BB/9). Opponents were hitting just .207 against him (6.68 H/9). His slider helped him overpower right-handed hitters and keep them to a .188 batting average, while left-handers were up to .234 with seven home runs allowed in 56.2 innings. Carreno's changeup is still a work in progress but it will be less important in the bullpen.
His long-term future is probably in the 'pen; with better fastball command he could develop two plus pitches (His slider is already there), which is what he needs to be a high-leverage reliever at the MLB level. If his fastball command improves enough - and he learns to trust himself in tough situations - Carreno could see time in the ninth inning. On my ever-evolving list of the Top 100 prospects in the system, I currently have him ranked as the 22nd best prospect in the system between New Hampshire (AA) first baseman Michael McDade and rookie ball catcher Santiago Nessy, a former big-dollar international signee.
With a recent rash of prospect promotions by Toronto, the club is clearly promoting the likes of Carreno and Henderson Alvarez for two reasons. 1) The club will likely have a number of openings on the pitching staff in 2012 and GM Alex Anthopoulos needs to know how ready the in-house guys are, and 2) To increase trade value among the organization's prospects for possible off-season trades. A pitcher with MLB experience - even if he struggles - carries greater value than one that is considered not-quite-MLB-ready.