Though Dillon Tate is viewed as the main prize of the prospect haul the Orioles received for Zach Britton, right-handed reliever Cody Carroll may be the closest of the group to taking the mound at Camden Yards.
Carroll, the Yankees’ 22nd-round selection in the 2015 draft out of Southern Mississippi, has spent the previous two seasons pitching exclusively out of the bullpen after serving as both a starter and reliever during his first full season in 2016. Standing at 6’5”, the 25-year-old logged a 2.38 ERA along with 55 strikeouts in 41.2 innings at AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre so far this year.
After needing Tommy John surgery as a high school senior in 2011, Carroll went undrafted and spent his first year in college as a redshirt freshman while recovering from the injury. Though another injury in 2013 limited him to just three innings pitched all season, he bounced back to toss 49.2 innings the next year. He experienced a breakout season for the Golden Eagles in 2015, throwing 96.1 innings with a 3.08 ERA.
Carroll’s fastball saw a significant uptick in velocity after his pro debut. After working mostly in the low 90’s as a collegiate pitcher, he now sits between 96-98 with the ability to dial it all the way up to 101. He complements the fastball with a slider that MLB.com’s Prospect Pipeline rates as a 60 on the 20-80 scouting scale and a splitter that projects to be a below-average major league offering. Though his control is described as below average, he’s cut down his walk rate at AAA this year after walking 4.2% of the hitters he faced in AA last season.
It certainly seems as though the Yankees’ decision to move Carroll to the bullpen paid big dividends. He now works out of the stretch full-time and doesn’t have to worry about finding a true off-speed pitch to complement his high-octane fastball and mid-80’s slider and splitter. Carroll himself said in a pre-season interview with MLB.com that the move helped him with his command and fits better with his mentality as a pitcher.
Beyond honing his command further, there’s not much left for Carroll to prove at the minor-league level. He made the International League All-Star team this season and boasts a FIP of 2.26, suggesting that his eye-popping ERA may not be a fluke. Right-handed hitters are batting just .125 against Carroll and he’s allowed just over one baserunner per inning so far this year. That isn’t to say that he’s a consensus relief ace in the making, however. Matt Provenzano of SBNation’s Beyond The Box Score website dismissed him as “organizational depth” during a write-up of the Britton deal, while MLB.com was careful to note that he frequently yanks his fastball and slider out of the strike zone.
All three pitchers acquired from New York must be added to the O’s 40-man roster before next year, so it makes it even more likely that Carroll will suit up for Baltimore at some point this season. While it may take until rosters expand in September to see the big righty in action at the major league level, it will be interesting to see if his ability to be effectively wild translates to the American League East.