Robert Carson (5 2/3 IP, 1 ER, 7 H, 1 BB, 6 K) - After receiving some serious publicity by tossing a three-hit, nine-inning shutout versus the Lexington Legends, prospect junkies are clamoring for whatever information they can find on the young lefty. On the evening I watched him pitch, he threw against Tim Beckham and the Tampa Bay Rays’ Sally League affiliate. While not dominating, his performance placed him squarely on my prospect radar and I will be seeing him throw again in the next couple of weeks to see how he has improved. A fan favorite here in Savannah, Carson can be found on nights he doesn’t pitch dancing with Gnate the Gnat and entertaining his many fans. His personality has endeared him to Sand Gnats fans, and he brings the same excitement to the mound.
Physique and Athleticism: At 6′3″, 220 lbs., Carson has the build of a durable innings eater. He’s a big-body type who will constantly have to monitor his weight as he ages. For now, he’s simply a strong young man who could probably add a bit more strength to his base to complement his already filled out upper body. As an athlete, I haven’t seen him tested much except for pre-game dance offs to Soulja Boy. However, you won’t find many non-athletes who can dance. He has a fluid throwing motion and looks free and easy touching 90 on the radar gun—a good sign for the possibility of his adding a couple more ticks on the radar gun.
Mound Presence: Carson might be the fastest working pitcher I’ve ever seen. He was practically a pitching machine. Fielders must love playing behind him, as he doesn’t waste any time. He’s focused, excitable, and is the type of pitcher fans pay to see throw every fifth day. He’s puts on a show with his pitching performance, much like Dontrelle Willis at his best. His charisma is undeniable and on a night where I hoped to stay impartial, I found myself rooting for Carson to be successful.
Fastball: Consistently 88-91 MPH and topping out at 92, he’s the hardest throwing lefy I’ve seen this season. He worked the pitch in-and-out, filling the zone and producing quick innings. I’ve read he throws a cutter, but I didn’t see it on this occasion, as his velocity remained consistent throughout. The Rays were able to pepper the fastball for a number of singles, but he gave up only one extra base hit.
Slider: An average big-league offering, the pitch needs a bit more bite crossing the plate before the pitch starts producing more strikeouts than weak groundballs. With down-and-in movement to right-handed hitters, it’s no wonder his GB% is above 60% for his career. At 82 to 84 MPH, the pitch has excellent velocity and could become a true weapon as he matures. My one concern with the slider is his arm action, which, combined with his tendency to short-arm the ball, could lead to future injury.
Changeup: His least memorable offering, he threw it in the 78-80 MPH range. On the few occasions he turned to the pitch, he had a tendency to leave the offering up in the zone and needs to work on finishing the pitch. As with most pitchers, the development of this third offering will help determine whether Carson can remain a starting pitcher long-term.
While Robert Carson has been helped by a little luck (FIP is a run higher than his ERA), his one homerun allowed and 63% groundball rate in 92 1/3 innings of work are dominating statistics. In July, he has also shown the rates one would expect to see out of a top pitching prospect, with a strikeout rate near 20% and walk rate just over 3%. While not a true top prospect yet, he’s well on his way to becoming a top 10 player in the Mets’ organization and may already be there. As for most young pitchers, Carson needs to become more consistent to harness his potential and a strong third offering will determine whether Carson can become a 200+ inning, back-of-the-rotation bulldog or two pitch stalwart out of the pen. With a 0.40 ERA versus lefties, he could probably have some success right now as a LOOGY.