Cleveland Indians starter Carlos Carrasco has always had ace-like and All-Star pitching ability. It was always figured that all he really needed was a full, healthy season for that to become apparent.
In 2017, Carrasco finally had a season in which he was healthy. The baseball world took notice as he emerged from the large shadow that is cast over the rest of the Tribe rotation by two-time Cy Young Award winner and staff ace Corey Kluber.
The 30-year-old Carrasco was widely considered one of the biggest snubs from this past year’s Midsummer Classic. That was the first sign that baseball people outside of Cleveland were beginning to notice Cookie’s immense talents.
The latest sign that Major League Baseball has started to view Carrasco as almost a starting pitcher No. 1-A to Kluber’s clear-cut No. 1 status was this year’s Cy Young vote. A week before Kluber was announced as a newly minted two-time recipient of the prestigious honor, everyone knew who the top three vote-getters were in each league for baseball’s top pitching price.
In the American League, Kluber, Chris Sale, and Luis Severino were named the Top 3 in Cy Young voting, done annually by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. When the award was handed out nearly two weeks ago, the full results were revealed. Somewhat unexpectedly, Carrasco finished fourth in the A.L. voting, behind Severino and ahead of Justin Verlander, a former Cy winner and league MVP.
In reality, the only reason Carrasco finishing fourth in the balloting was surprising was all of the focus that had been placed on Kluber. It was widely suspected, starting in August, that the Klubot would be a finalist for the award and by late September was largely considered the odds-on-favorite. So much focus, at least in Cleveland, was put on Kluber becoming the first Indians to win the award twice that Carrasco was overlooked. For the first time, Cookie was somewhat forgotten locally, but was very much remembered nationally.
Carrasco was very deserving of his first career Top-5 finish in the Cy Young vote. In 32 starts, he tied for the Major League lead with 18 wins, against just six losses. He also was sixth in the A.L. with a sterling 3.29 ERA.
Carrasco certainly had the numbers in 2017 of a Cy Young candidate. If not for Kluber being so much further and farther away from almost every other pitcher in the league, it is likely Carrasco may have gotten more votes. As it is, he seems to have stepped out of Kluber’s shadow and is starting to shine a little brighter on the national stage.
That kind of recognition has been a long time coming for Carrasco, who has taken a bumpy road to get to this point.
Carrasco was part of the 2009 Cliff Lee trade to the Phillies. Indians fans were angry at the trade, in general, and were less than accepting of the players received from Philadelphia at first. Carrasco was something of an unknown commodity, at the time and was not the centerpiece of the deal for Cleveland. That was Jason Knapp, since long-gone from baseball thanks to injuries.
Carrasco spent the early part of his Tribe career, which began in 2010, battling his own injuries, ineffectiveness, and immaturity. He missed a year with Tommy John surgery, was suspended for throwing at batters’ heads, and always seemed to be unlucky, getting struck and injured by line drives in both 2015 and 2016.
The latter two injuries were most unfortunate. Along with just be unlucky by twice having comebackers get him, Carrasco was just coming into his own those two seasons. From 2010 through early 2014, some wondered if Carrasco would have the ability to fulfill his promise on the mound and pitch to the potential that his right arm seemed to flash. A banishment to the bullpen in mid-2014 seemed to correct Carrasco’s issues and, by the end of that season, he was pitching well and consistently back as a starter.
The 2015 liner got him in the face and spoiled the first half of his season. In 2016, it was September when he got struck in his pitching hand. That one ended his season, causing him to miss the postseason and his team’s run to the World Series. Indians fans will always wonder what may have happened in those playoffs with a healthy Cookie capably manning the No. 2 starter role.
Carrasco entered 2017 embedded as the Tribe’s second-best starter, but with questions as to whether he could stay healthy and have a full season as a true ace-like hurler. He finally had such a season and the baseball world took notice.
Cookie will enter 2018 as Cleveland’s No. 2 guy again. No longer is that due to his potential, but is instead only due to the fact that Kluber is so good. Otherwise, Carrasco would be the ace of the pitching staff. On about 20 teams in baseball, Carrasco would probably pitch on Opening Day. With the Indians, he has a transcendent pitcher throwing in front of him. Still, he and Kluber combine to make perhaps the best starting 1-2 punch in the game. That is saying something for Carrasco. When he was recognized by the BBWAA as a top-notch hurler, it cemented his arrival as a known commodity around baseball circles that stretch further than Cleveland.
Perhaps next year is the year Carrasco makes his first All-Star game. He has the momentum, name-recognition, and acumen now. All he needs is another strong first half. It was always assumed that, if healthy, Carrasco could be one of the league’s better pitchers. Now, it is no longer an assumption. Now, as a fourth-place Cy Young showing would indicate, that notion is more of a fact.
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