Damion Carroll‘s professional baseball career has not gone as planned since the Tampa Bay Rays selected him in the 6th round of the 2012 MLB Draft. Three years after entering the system with a promising mid-90’s fastball, the 6’3″, 198 right-hander still has not left Rookie ball. This season at Advanced Rookie Princeton, Carroll set a career-high with just 28.1 innings pitched, although he did manage a 1.59 ERA. What resonates more from his season than those statistics, though, is another number: 100 MPH. Baseball America listed Carroll among the pitchers in the minor leagues who have touched the century mark, and that reminds us just how promising Carroll remains.
With a fastball that electric, it is no surprise that hitters whiff plenty against Carroll. He struck out 12.1 batters per 9 innings, including a couple of particularly spectacular outings. On June 21st, he struck out 4 while walking 1 in 2.2 hitless innings, and he struck out 5 while walking 1 in 2.1 hitless innings on August 11th. The contact was also weak against him when the ball was actually put into play. On the season, he managed a 51.7% groundball rate, allowed just 5.4 hits per 9 innings, and gave up just three extra-base hits, all doubles. Instead, it was Carroll giving the opposition most of their opportunities. He walked 21 batters, a scary 6.7 per 9 innings, and hit 7 more with pitches, which would bring that mark up to 8.9 per 9. Among Carroll’s 16 outings this season, none of which lasted more than 2.2 innings, he walked at least one batter in every game but two and walked multiple batters five times. Where will Damion Carroll go from here after such an up-and-down season?
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The good news for Carroll and the Rays is that a fastball reaching triple digits gives you a much larger margin for error. Carroll has work to do controlling the pitch better and improving his secondary offerings, but even if nothing ever clicks perfectly, he has the ability to be an “effectively wild” big league reliever. He will spend next season at just 21 years of age, and he still has plenty of time to get himself together on the mound. On the other hand, if the Rays can help Carroll make significant progress, we are talking about a pitcher who could zoom to the major leagues and become a late-inning option in short order. The Rays saw enough from Carroll to bring him to the Fall Instructional League, and next season should see him pitching in the Low-A Bowling Green bullpen. If his arsenal can make even moderate strides, he will not be there for long.