In my Arizona Fall League preview, I wrote about a bunch of relievers that I was going to keep my eye on. I didn't include the Chicago Cubs' Chris Carpenter (not to be confused with the St. Louis Cardinals version) on that list, because he had been working as a starter in pro ball. However, after seeing him multiple times over the last few weeks in a relief role, I am very intrigued about the possibilities of him developing into a late-inning option if the Cubs so choose.
Pitcher velocities need to be taken with a certain grain of salt in the first week or so of the AFL, as many pitchers are still getting back up to speed after a little time off. It's not uncommon to see small jumps on the radar gun in the second or third outing and beyond. So while Carpenter was sitting in the 93-95 range early in the Fall League, he bumped up to the 97-99 range his last time out, hitting triple-digits once. But before we jump too far ahead, here's some background:
Carpenter is a 6-foot-4 right-hander who was a third-round pick in the 2008 draft out of Kent State, and will turn 25 in December. He went in the third round not because of talent -- he could bring the plus heat in college -- but because medical concerns made teams a little wary. He had Tommy John surgery in 2005, a second procedure to clean up the elbow in 2006, and left the Cape Cod League in 2007 due to a tired arm. Add a little bit of effort in his delivery (although not as much as you would expect for a guy who can put up the radar readings he does), and some teams had some concerns about his durability.
For what it's worth, Carpenter hasn't had any problems since turning pro, registering 27 starts in 2009 and 26 this past season. He posted a 2.82 ERA and a 118-to-52 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 130 2/3 innings across two levels in 2009, and a 3.41 ERA and 112-to-57 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 134 2/3 innings, mostly at Double-A, this year.