Burl Carraway might be the first reliever off the board in this year’s 2020 MLB Draft. Dallas Baptist has produced several MLB pitchers in recent seasons including Colin Poche and Drew Smith. The small school’s highest pick is Vic Black in 2009. Carraway probably won’t break that barrier, but he is still an exciting prospect.
The left-handed Carraway is the 49th-best prospect on MLB.com’s big board. He is listed at 6’0″, 173 pounds. The 20-year-old attended high school at A&M Consolidated in College Station, Texas before committing to the small Missouri Valley Conference program.
Carraway is a power lefty with a fastball/curveball combination. MLB rates the fastball as a 60/80 but the curve is even better at 65. His control is only graded as a 45 at the moment but he makes up for it with strong stuff and movement. His fastball sat in the 93-96 mph range and hit 98 at times. The curve typically travels in the upper 70s with a high spin rate and movement. Carraway’s skills ultimately produced 16.4 strikeouts per nine innings this year. That rate would have been in the top 10 for Division I.
Carraway was having an excellent year as a college reliever before the current global pandemic canceled the season. He pitched nine innings with a 1.93 ERA, a 1.18 WHIP, and 17 strikeouts compared to just six walks. He improved every stat compared to 2019, so it is a shame to see his season end so abruptly. Carraway will end his Dallas Baptist career with a 3.86 ERA, 89 strikeouts and 31 walks in 51 1/3 innings if he signs with the team that selects him.
Carraway also pitched briefly in the prestigious Cape Cod summer league. He only pitched one inning but allowed no hits, walked one batter and struck out two. That isn’t much but it is still something against some of the top players in summer baseball.
Carraway has plenty of raw stuff but his command needs work if he’s going to survive in the majors. Relievers can often compensate for subpar command with superior strikeout potential but teams still do not like to see bullpen options walking over five batters per nine innings at any level of competition. One thing Carraway might try in professional ball is slowing down his delivery. He might lose some velocity but it could reduce his walk rate. His movement should remain effective and a slower, more consistent motion will improve command issues.
Relief pitching is also extremely volatile. Even players who have excelled in college can falter badly once they reach the professional ranks. The odds of Carraway having a long career are low despite his obvious potential as a power arm. He has plenty of strong points but professional relief pitching is one of the positions replaced the most often in modern professional baseball.
There aren’t many lefties who throw quite as hard as Carraway, which makes comparing him difficult. One starting point might be Travis Bergen. He also throws a fastball/curve combination but his fastball averaged just 90.5 mph in 2019. Bergen is a 26-year-old who pitched with the San Francisco Giants in 2019. He threw 19 2/3 innings with a 5.49 ERA and 18 strikeouts. He also pitched three-plus innings for the Toronto Blue Jays during spring training with five strikeouts, two walks, and no runs.
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