clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Here’s why bringing Burl Carraway to Wrigley Field in 2020 would be a bad idea

New, 31 comments

The Cubs’ second-round pick can throw hard. But he’s not ready for MLB yet.

Shane Roper

I have made more than a few comments on the Cubs’ 2020 second round draft selection Burl Carraway. Some of my comments have been misrepresented, so I'm going to take an article to clear up and possibly clean up my stance on the Dallas Baptist University draft selection. Some people seem to be reading between lines when no writing exists between said lines. Carraway is unlikely to be useful at the MLB level in 2020, and that isn't a bad thing.

Albert Almora Jr. has played 469 games with the Cubs. That's a reasonable sample size. Nonetheless, three separate camps exist regarding Team Almora. Some think he should be playing much more regularly. Some couch their opinion with this: If he were playing more, he'd be more successful. Finally, some fans are about done with him, for whatever reason. After close to 500 games with the parent club, fans still disagree on Almora's value.

Carraway, on the other hand, has played no professional games. As the Cubs are buttoning down the South Bend site, Marquee Sports Network hasn't had any string of personal interest stories on Carraway, or anyone else from the alternate site. Darin Pritchett, the South Bend Cubs radio broadcaster, has no access to players at the alternate site, even by phone, and neither do any other media members. Any comments on Carraway are riddled with hunches, as that's all that's available.

In a normal season, the best way to assess if a player ought to be promoted is how he's doing at his current level. When Kyle Schwarber was better than the Northwest League, he was called up a level to the Midwest League, and then the Florida State League. Shred a level, get promoted. Struggle at a level, stay there, or get sent back a level. That's how it's worked. Struggling at a level by no means indicates that player won't be able to master the level, eventually. Javier Baez was the Alpha Dog of struggling, then figuring it out. Too many people (apparently including Commissioner Rob Manfred) seem to think quite a few players don't really deserve a roster spot because they are incapable of getting markedly better, eventually. As David Bote did.

Burl Carraway was a very reasonable second-round choice. He wouldn't have been my selection, as I think the Cubs would more benefit from more upside hitting than relief pitching, but so it goes. Carraway is the guy, and he might be a valid MLB reliever. After he carves at the Triple-A Level, which comes after he carves at Double-A, and Advanced-A. With no minor-league ball in 2020, the best barometer to assess improvement from afar is gone.

Among the best "fast-track" displays of a pitcher (fast-track being the concept of getting him to MLB as quickly as possible) was Brandon Finnegan. Finnegan was the 17th overall pick in the 2014 draft, and played seven regular season games that season for the World Series-bound Kansas City Royals, and also in the postseason for them. The next season, he was used to acquire rental starter Johnny Cueto, and his time with Cincinnati was injury-impaired. After a healthy 2016, he's struggled since and hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2018.

Finnegan was a starting pitcher at Texas Christian, and his junior season ERA was 2.04 over a bit over 100 innings in the Big 12, walking 24. Finnegan made two more stops in the Royals farm system in 2014, walking four in 27 innings. He walked one in seven regular-season frames for the Royals (but struggled in the postseason). Whether the use in his first campaign spiked him later or not, he was really good as a pro in 2014. He retained value into 2015.

My concern with Carraway isn't that he is a bad player. He's perfectly useful, long-term. I missed seeing Carraway’s Dallas Baptist University team entirely in 2020, despite their 12-4 record. I can’t claim any special hidden knowledge on any 2020 DBU Patriots; that would be disingenuous. I've heard of Jimmy Glowenke, but none of the others set off any bells, at all. Here’s some video of Carraway:

What I've decided to do is look at the boxscores of all seven games Carraway pitched in to see what can be gathered. His first appearance was against 5-12 (all records I cite will be full-season, as opposed to when the game was played) South Dakota State. In Carraway's longest outing of the season he tossed two innings against the Jackrabbits, allowing a hit and an unearned run. He walked two, fanned three, and was credited with the win. The Jackrabbits are far from an elite club. Here’s the boxscore.

In a midweek game on February 18, Carraway pitched an inning against 12-4 Texas Arlington. Carraway gave up two hits and a walk, getting his only "no decision".

In the North Carolina series the following weekend, Carraway might have punched his draft ticket. He saved two games, fanning five over 2⅔ innings. At first blush, this might appear the bast case of rapidly advancing Carraway. However, Dominic Hamel, who had a 4.58 ERA over 19⅔ innings with seven walks, tossed seven scoreless against the Tar Heels that weekend. Hamel walked one and fanned ten. If Carraway's four strikeouts over five outs was other-worldly, Hamel's longer stint may have been more impressive. Mason McRae is my go-to for draft questions. When asked about Hamel, he noted great data, a "heavy ride" a "low release angle". "I like him better than I like Carraway." Here’s the first boxscore and here’s the second.

In a midweek contest against 7-9 Arkansas State, Carraway walked and fanned three in a one-run inning against the Red Wolves. A pitcher who struggles against the Arkansas State Red Wolves may well need 12 months of improvement to be ready to shred against MLB hitters.

Carraway's season closed with a 2-2 save try weekend against 6-10 Oral Roberts. Here’s the first boxscore and here’s the second.

My problems with rushing Carraway to MLB are three-fold. First, he has done nothing in his college career to indicate he would be a "more advanced" or "more useful" option than Adbert Alzolay, Colin Rea, or even Justin Steele. The latter has over 300 innings of minor-league experience. Adding Carraway before he is ready pushes him into a 40-man roster spot. Caraway is no Finnegan, and has shown no history of being that good in college.

Lastly, if you really do want to buy in on Carraway, that's cool. I think it would be nice if most fans actively followed one or two drafted prospects every season. However, if you think Carraway's numbers from 2020 scream "ready major league talent in the next two months,” you're probably about ready to actively follow a college team or three. Carraway is interesting long-term, but he's not top 20 from the last draft of guys who should get to MLB quickly.

Carraway was a reasonable selection, though I'd have gone a different way.

He will have every chance to show he belongs in MLB at some point.

There's no compelling evidence that "now" or "very soon" is a major part of his MLB experience.

All three of the above things could be true. Perhaps I'm wrong, and the coaches for the South Bend site think I'm too bearish on Carraway. I still don't want to unnecessarily add a player to the 40-man roster this season (until I'm more certain of a playoff payoff), to limit the options for the next offseason. If Carraway tosses seeds with command in Double-A Ball in 2021, I might adjust my assessment.