The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of: Andrew Carignan

Many popular opinions of pitching prospects are formed from general scouting reports. While these reports are invaluable resources, they can’t always be trusted. Hundreds of minor league hurlers are credited with “mid-90′s velocity,” but very few MLB starters actually have that grade of heat, for example. It’s incredibly frustrating to hear about a pitcher with “a mid-90′s heater and plus curve,” only to have him come up to the big leagues and show a fastball that averages 90.5 mph and a slider.

When a pitcher come up to the majors, we can finally get a foolproof reading on what exactly his arsenal is comprised of, thanks to the great Pitch F/X system. In this series, I analyze just that–the “stuff” of recently-promoted MLB pitchers. Now that they’ve achieved their big league dreams and thus factor directly into the MLB picture, it’s high time that we know exactly what these guys are providing.

This time, I’m taking a look at Athletics reliever Andrew Carignan.

As an A’s fan, I was never really on the Andrew Carignan bandwagon back when a lot of people saw him as the team’s closer of the future following 2008. That was mainly because he always walked too many batters for my taste, including 6.66 per nine innings that season in Double-A.

The reliever then missed most of 2009, and when he came back in 2010, he walked over a batter per inning in High-A. I felt vindicated.

Out of nowhere, then, the now-25-year-old UNC alum started throwing strikes in 2011, breezing through three levels to reach Oakland in September and pitch decently there (2 BB, 5 K in 6 1/3 IP). He’s also had a nice Arizona Fall League. He might not prove to be Oakland’s best reliever, but he’s looking more and more like an MLB asset.

The short, stocky reliever operates almost chiefly off his fastball, an explosive offering in the 92-96 mph range. As with a lot of flamethrowing relievers, he tends to climb the ladder with the pitch:

That’s actually a pretty nice bunch of locations, as he throws a fair amount of strikes up in the zone while managing to avoid the middle of the plate.

It didn’t prove to be that effective, however, going for strikes 62.5% of the time and only drawing four swinging strikes in 104 pitches. It’s a small sample, and I’d expect the pitch to ultimately play better than that, but at the same time, perhaps we shouldn’t get too carried away with the pitch.

Carignan’s other pitch (well, okay, he also threw two or three splitters) is a sweeping slider in the 78-82 mph range that should be effective enough to complement the fastball; in fact, I think that he’d be better served increasing his slider usage, because it’s tough to get by on the fastball 85% of the time unless it’s a truly elite offering.

There’s not a whole lot else to say here. I can’t help but remain somewhat skeptical about Carignan, since he’s had exactly one good season and is basically a one-pitch guy whose fastball may not be that great. That said, Oakland’s a great place to be a high-fastball pitcher, because it’s tough for batters to hit those high heaters out of the Athletics’ huge park. Carignan’s AFL dominance also lends credence to the idea that he’s going to be good from here forward. He should be a usable bullpen arm in the majors, but there are a lot of pitchers with this profile that wind up as nothing more than extra arms. Carignan will need to prove that he can separate himself from that pack in 2012.

For more on the Athletics, check out Swingin’ A’s.

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Tags: Andrew Carignan Oakland Athletics

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