Scouting Mets Prospect #29: Robert Carson

Carson is a very promising left-hander

Left-hander Robert Carson is another example of Mets scoring good value in the middle rounds of the draft. Selected in the 14th round of the 2007 draft, Carson came on strong in his second season and excited coaches with his quick progression and very mature approach on the mound. Now, he is ready to take the next step.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Robert Carson
DOB: January 23, 1989
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 220
Throws: Left
Bats: Left
Status: 14th Round Pick (2007) – Hattiesburg HS (MS)

While there were a number of older, second-year pitchers gaining more attention in the upper levels of the farm this past season, a name that should really catch on in the 2009 season is that of left-hander Robert Carson. The 14th round pick in the 2007 draft is rapidly moving up the depth chart as he enters his third season at just 20 years old.

The reason for the growing excitement surrounding Carson is the speed in which he adapts and executes the tools coaches and coordinators impress upon him. He showed off what he learned throughout the 2008 season.

Carson got off to a hot start in his return to the Gulf Coast League, posting a 1-0 record and 1.57 ERA in 23 innings pitched while striking out 25 and walking six. It was then onto Kingsport when he did not miss a beat, going 2-3 with a 1.76 ERA in 30 2/3 innings with 21 strikeouts and 18 walks.

"I think the strongest part of my game this year was being able to learn more about pitching, and really focusing on controlling the game. Learning that I was in control of the game and how do to that by throwing strikes with more than pitch was really important," Carson explained.

What allowed him to throw more strikes was not only greater command of his fastball, but improvements with his secondary pitches. He entered the system with a fastball and immature changeup, but as pitching coordinator Rick Waits attests to, Carson's pitch development played a big role in his success.

"I think when he started his year in 2007 coming in out of high school, he really only had the fastball and changeup without a breaking ball. So we spent a year trying to get him a breaking ball and it turned out to be a slider. By the middle of 2008, he had a very good slider and I was surprised and pleased that he had learned it so quickly," Waits detailed.

"To tell you the truth, I thought it would take a little bit longer but the pitches came on quickly and he finished the second half of this season with three solid pitches," he continued.

But it was not just the depth and quality of his pitches, it was his approach as well. Though Carson is armed with a low to mid-90s fastball and a big, hooking slider, he does not pursue the strikeout like many young pitchers with similar talent. Instead, he pitches to contact, specifically for ground balls, and racked up a near 4-to-1 groundball/flyball ratio.

"I'm more of a finesse pitcher who likes to get ground balls. I get some strikeouts here and there when I'm feeling it, but I'm always trying to get pitch to contact and get guys out in three pitches or less. I think the slider is what's going to help me do that in a long-season," he detailed.

It is that mentality that should carry Carson to success next season as his goal is to break through with a long-season club, a focus that he will carry through Spring Training.

"Coming back stronger and my arm in great shape, that's something to work towards," he said. "I had a real good season and getting moved up in rookie ball was a great opportunity, and now I'm looking forward to Spring Training and proving my ability and making a long season team."

Year

Team

W-L

SV

IP

Hits

BB

K

ERA

2008

Kingsport

2-3

0

30.2

29

18

21

1.76

2008

GCL

1-0

0

23.0

11

6

25

1.57

2007

GCL

1-0

0

9.0

8

5

9

5.00



Repertoire: Fastball, Slider, Changeup

Fastball: Carson's fastball was clocked anywhere from 92-95 MPH, and touched 97 MPH a couple of times throughout the season. Not only does he boast good velocity but very good control that allows him to mix it on both corners which sets up the rest of his pitches. He throws a four-seam grip, but the pitch has late movement with good, running action in on right-handers, also making it effective away from left-handers. Hitters gained better timing of it as the season went on, but it is an established pitch that will be there at higher levels.

Other Pitches: Though his slider has swing-and-miss break, Carson utilizes the mid-80s breaking pitch more to contact and induces a large number of his ground balls with it. He does an excellent job of keeping his slider down in the zone with its sweeping break. He currently relies on the pitch late in the count, but continues to work on mixing it more in at-bats to make it less predictable. His changeup, though fringy at times, is a viable third pitch with good sinking action thrown in the mid to high-70s. He entered the system with a basic version of it and it remains a third option behind his slider.

Pitching: Carson has the tools to register a high number of strikeouts but even with his velocity and all the movement on his pitches, he is a contact-first pitcher. He adheres to an organizational philosophy of three pitches or less per at-bat and a quick tempo with sound control down in the strike zone. The spike in walks with Kingsport was a bit alarming, but when Carson stays within his game he has sharp command and can locate his pitches as intended. He completes the package with great leadership skills and a strong work ethic that is palpable amongst his teammates.

Projection: There is no doubt Carson has the stuff to be a big league starter, but it is his development that will dictate how high he can go. A conservative estimate pits him as a reliable southpaw at the back of the rotation, but the quality of his fastball and slider, and the speed in which the quality of his game has progressed, could improve his projection in coming years.

ETA: 2012. Carson will likely move on to Savannah next season and remain there for the entire year save a possible late taste of St. Lucie like many Low-A pitchers in the 2008 season. There is little need to rush a talent like Carson and he would be better off acclimating to one level per season, ultimately earning his crack in the big leagues in 2012.

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