Scouts and execs on what Mets can expect from Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco

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John Harper
·5 min read
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Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco treated image
Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco treated image

So what’s not to like about acquiring Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco?

I asked that question of several scouts, executives, and Cleveland media members familiar with the two former Indians’ players, knowing Mets’ fans might be thinking that Thursday’s trade looks too good to be true.

After all, it’s hard not to recall Carlos Baerga and Roberto Alomar suddenly losing their skills upon coming over to the Mets from Cleveland in similarly ballyhooed trades years ago.

So the good news for those worrisome fans is that I couldn’t find anyone to poke significant holes in the games of either Lindor, the 27-year old superstar shortstop, or Carrasco, the 33-year old right-hander who is expected to slot in as a No. 2-3 type starter.

Here are some of the opinions/observations I gathered:

Francisco Lindor

Yes, Lindor’s offensive numbers were down a bit in 2020, as he hit .258 with a .750 OPS, way down from his .871 OPS from 2018, his best season, but I spoke to an exec well-versed in analytics who said “There’s nothing alarming in the numbers, especially given the relatively small sample size (of a 60-game season).”

Specifically, Lindor’s hard-hit rate was down slightly, from 41 percent in his three previous seasons to 38.1 percent in 2020. His average exit velocity was 89.9 mph, compared to 91 and 90.6 the two previous seasons. And his strikeout percentage was up slightly, at 15.4 percent, compared to 15 and 14.4 the two previous seasons, while his walk rates were similar.

“It’s close enough to think that over a 162-game season,” the exec said, “his base stats would have would have improved and gotten closer to his normal year.”

As for scouts, the only slight complaint I heard is that perhaps Lindor has become a bit too power-conscious, after hitting 38 home runs in 2018, and it’s possible that’s creeping into his overall approach at the plate.

But even if that’s true, the scout who made the point said, “It’s not really much of a price to pay if your shortstop is going to give you 30-plus home runs a year, especially with the defense and base-running he gives you. It doesn’t take any special scouting instinct to see he’s a great player.”

Yes, defense is a big part of what makes Lindor special, especially considering what he can do with the bat as a shortstop. You’ve probably seen enough highlights of him ranging well into the grass behind second base to make spectacular plays to know he’s got the wow factor, and the metrics back up his flair, which isn’t always the case.

For example, Gio Urshela has a bit of that wow factor as the Yankees’ third baseman, yet the metrics aren’t kind to him.

In Lindor’s case, all the different measuring tools judge him as elite, as pointed out by FanGraphs.com. Over the last three seasons Lindor ranks second-best defensively only to Andrelton Simmons, according to UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating). During that same period, he also ranks second in outs-above-average, behind only Nick Ahmed. Finally, since 2018 he ranks fourth in DRS (Defensive Runs Saved), behind Simmons, Paul DeJong and Ahmed.

As for the eye test, scouts rave about him.

“He makes all the plays, and he’s a guy you trust to make the play with the money on the line,” was the way one scout put it. “He’s got a flair but he’s fundamentally sound. He’s one of the best in the game.”

Carlos Carrasco

His is a remarkable story, surviving leukemia in 2019 to return to the big leagues and then find his old form at age 33 in 2020, pitching to a 2.91 ERA over 12 starts and 68 innings.

“His stuff is still above-average,” one scout said, “and like a lot of guys, he’s made adjustments based on analytics to best attack today’s hitters and their launch-angle approach. He’s always had a good slider, and he’s learned to use his four-seamer above the hitting plane, and he’s developed a split-change to give him a solid three-pitch mix.

“His velocity came back to where it was before he was sick, around 94 with his four-seamer, and that’s plenty with his off-speed stuff. You always worry about injuries at his age, but he’s been durable for most of his career.”

It’s true, the only significant time Carrasco has missed over the last five seasons was due to the cancer, and even then he managed to throw 80 innings in 2019.

And as the scout suggested, Carrasco made adjustments that perhaps accounted for his 15.1 swing-and-miss percentage, the seventh-highest in the majors, which led to a strikeout ratio of 10.9 per nine innings, the best of his career.

Specifically to his adjustments, Carrasco threw his change-up 27.5 percent of the time, the highest percentage of his career, while lowering his two-seam sinker percentage to just 4.6 percent, the lowest of his career.

“If he pitches the way he did last year,” another scout said, “he’s a solid No. 2. And for what they’ll be paying ($12 million a year), that’s a great deal.”