Emerging Prospect: Indians Class A Rhp Fausto Carmona
By Joe Barbieri SportsTicker Staff Writer
BOSTON (Ticker) -- With the minor league season in the home stretch, Fausto Carmona is coming on strong with hopes of finishing as the National Association's winningest pitcher on the minors' winningest team, the Lake County Captains.
Riding the wave of wins in each of his last seven starts, the 19-year-old Carmona has become the proud owner of a 17-3 record. He and Seattle Mariners' lefty Travis Blackley were the only 17-game winners in the minors through August 25.
During his consecutive winning streak, which began on July 16, Carmona has posted a 2.00 ERA, a .182 batting average against and a strikeouts-to-walks ratio of eight to one.
As his 1.94 ERA - fourth among all National Association starters - can defend, Carmona has enjoyed consistent success throughout the season.
And as Carmona has gone, so have the Captains. Since July 16, the club has gone 31-7 to improve its overall mark to a minor league-best 94-39, good for a .707 winning percentage. The league record for highest winning percentage in a season is .722, accomplished by Spartanburg in 1966.
In his first full professional season Carmona, a non-drafted free agent signee in 2001, has dominated the low-level Class A South Atlantic League.
Beginning with a 3-1 mark and a 0.98 ERA in April, Carmona sported an ERA of 2.30 or lower in each of the first four months of the season. In July, he went 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA and no walks in 34 2/3 innings.
Exhibiting impeccable control, Carmona has done an excellent job of staying out of trouble. He has issued just 14 walks in 148 2/3 innings this season and one walk or fewer in all but three of his starts.
"He throws strikes," Captains pitching coach Tony Arnold said. "He's got a 94 miles per hour fastball, but his ability to move the ball around in the strike zone and throw strikes with more than one pitch has helped him get to where he is today."
Control has been a trademark for Carmona, but keeping batters from hitting his strikes had not been until this season.
Last year, the native of the Dominican Republic allowed a rookie-level Appalachian League-high 89 hits in 76 1/3 innings. He's turned that around this year to the tune of a .212 average against - good for 10th in the National Association through August 25.
"Coming into the year, he had a good feel for his changeup," said Arnold, who was also Carmona's pitching coach in Burlington last season. "Now he's starting to gain better feel and command of his breaking ball. You put the three-pitch mix together, and it's really helped him out this season."
Also a positive for Carmona has been his advanced maturity on the mound. It was that makeup that convinced the Indians he could contribute, at least for a start, at the Class AA level.
On July 10, with the Akron Aeros in need of a spot starter and with Eastlake Ballpark in Lake County in close proximity to Canal Park in Akron, Carmona was summoned to take on the Bowie Baysox. Against much more experienced competition, he responded with six quality innings in a no-decision, an eventual 7-6 victory.
"He's very focused on what he wants to get accomplished," Arnold said. "If he gives up a run or two, it doesn't rattle him. He doesn't he mad, he tries to get better."
Despite closing in on 150 innings for the season, Carmona likely will get an opportunity to improve even further in the instructional league over the winter.
"Really he just needs to continue to improve his breaking ball so that he can put hitters away with it," Arnold said. "Other than that it's just maturing as a pitcher and learning exactly what he can do."
With the statistics and on-field presence of a winner, Carmona appears to be the favorite to not only win his league's Pitcher of the Year award, but also to lead his team to a championship in its first year of existence.