Former Cleveland starter Carlos Carrasco should be a serviceable fantasy asset in 2021. Pitching for the New York Mets should provide plenty of run support, and a strong bullpen should close out games for Carrasco. It’s amazing that Carrasco is even on the mound, considering the health issues he had to overcome in recent years. In 2020, he logged 68 innings, posting a 3-4 record with a 2.91 ERA and 1.21 WHIP. The WHIP is actually quite impressive when you consider the fact that his 9.6 percent walk rate was the second-highest of his entire career!

Many of his numbers from 2019 are skewed and they can be viewed as outliers. For his career, he’s allowed an average exit velocity of 89 miles per hour. In 2019, it was a career-worst 91.5 miles per hour. His ERA was 5.29 and his 2.03 HR/9 mark was through the roof.

Carrasco practically abandoned his sinker and used his changeup a lot more in 2020. In 2019, he used his changeup just under 19 percent of the time, and it posted a solid 36.6 percent whiff rate. So, he comes out in 2020, throws the changeup 28 percent of the time, and the whiff rate remained high (34.3%). Furthermore, his changeup became a ground ball menace in 2020, posting a launch angle of negative three degrees. This gave him two pitches with a negative launch angle and two pitches that posted a ground ball rate of at least 65 percent.

As mentioned earlier, walks were an issue for Carrasco in 2020. His 3.57 BB/9 was the first year he was above 3.00 since 2013, while his walk rate of 9.6 percent was the first time he’s been above 6.0 percent since that same 2013 season. From 2014-2019, Carrasco had a strikeout-to-walk ratio of at least 4.41. His mark in 2020 was 3.04.

So, what happened? Well, there are a couple things at play here.

1. Less swings out of the zone

The veteran right-hander posted an O-swing rate of 33.2 percent. He was above 36 percent in each of the past two years, and for his career overall, he’s at 34.5 percent. His 2020 mark of 33.2 percent was just the second time in the past eight years that it’s been below 35 percent. Per Baseball Savant, his chase rate of 30.1 percent was his third-lowest mark in the past decade.

While he did generate more whiffs out of the zone, overall, opposing batters swung less.

2. He was in the strike zone less.

Per FanGraphs, his zone percentage was 48.8 percent. It’s just the second time in his entire career that he was below 50 percent for this metric. The last time it was sub-50 percent was back in 2016, when it was 49.3 percent, so, yes, his 2020 mark was the lowest of his career.

His strikeouts have remained steady, but his non-fastball offerings have generated fewer swings and misses. Fortunately for Carrasco, his fastballs (four-seamer and sinker) have been generating more whiffs to make up for it. It’s typically not encouraging for a pitcher when his secondary stuff is generating fewer whiffs, but Carrasco has been able to miss more bats with his heater and sinker.

So, some takeaways from the chart above:

- His slider’s whiff rate has dropped three straight seasons

- His changeup’s whiff rate has dropped two straight seasons

- His fastball’s whiff rate has increased for three straight years

Sure, some of the marks have decreased, but his numbers there are still very good. They just aren’t as good as we’d like them to be. Now, his strikeout rate has remained steady, being right around 28 and 29 percent each of the past four years, but if he wants to break through that 30 percent threshold for the first time in his career, he’ll need an uptick with one of his breaking/off-speed offerings.

At the time of this writing, Carrasco is the 20th starter off the board, per NFBC data, likely slotting in as your team’s second starter. Now, I’m fading Carrasco at the price, but if he slips in drafts, I’ll be all in. He’s only thrown 200 innings once in his career, and over the past two years, he’s only logged 148 innings on the mound. He won’t throw 200 innings for the Mets in 2021, so he will need an uptick in strikeouts to offset the 170-180 innings he throws this year, health willing.

There are a lot of good arms going around Carrasco in drafts that make it hard for me to select him at value. He should be the same old Carrasco that we have seen in recent years, and should benefit from the Mets’ lineup, bullpen, and home park. Moving away from the American League Central stinks, considering that it’s such a pitcher-friendly division, but Carrasco should be just fine in the National League East.

If he slips in drafts, he’s far more attractive than paying market price for the veteran right-hander.

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