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Carlos Carrasco's summer improvements, plus Francisco Lindor

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Indians pitcher Carlos Carrasco has a good chance to be one of the best values in fantasy drafts in 2016.

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The debut of stud defensive shortstop Francisco Lindor on June 14 to man the middle infield behind Carlos Carrasco may seem like one obvious reason for a significant increase in run prevention for Carrasco once the summer hit. Lindor was graded as a "7" defender on the 2-8 scouting scale by Baseball Prospectus prior to 2015, and BP described him as having "lightning quick hands", with a "soft glove" and "well above average range". Lindor's defensive tools led to dazzling plays behind the Indians pitching staff, like this:

And this:

Carrasco's ground ball rate on BIP was 51.2% in 2015, 18th most among starters. If more of those grounders are being hit to a human vacuum cleaner, it's probably a good bet that less of those will go through for hits. But Carrasco made legitimate improvements on the mound during the summer independent of the defense behind him, changes that look promising for next season.

The first improvement that jumped out was that Carrasco generated significantly weaker contact. This is a weekly exit velocity chart, taken from Daren Willman's excellent baseballsavant.com's database:

Carrasco's .342 opp. BABIP prior to Lindor's debut wasn't just bad luck. His average exit velocity against on batted balls registered by statcast was 90.6 mph, about 2.5 mph above MLB average of roughly 88 mph. It was 130th among starters, 7th worst. After June 14, Carrasco's average exit velocity against dropped to 87.5 mph, a 3 mph improvement, and jumped from 130th to 42nd among starters. Hitters were not generating the same force behind their contact against Carrasco as the season went on.

The second improvement that jumped out was that Carrasco began missing even more bats. His strikeout rate and swinging strike rate both significantly increased while maintaining the same walk rate:

Lindor call up

K%

SwStr%

Contact%

BB%

Pre

27.4%

12.0%

76.2%

5.8%

Post

31.2%

15.4%

70.6%

6.0%

A 15% swinging strike rate for a starter is pretty crazy. Only two starters maintained that all season last year, Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer, and nobody in the American League broke 15%. Carrasco maintained that rate for 420 batters faced across his final 17 starts, a little more than half a season. It led to a final swinging strike rate of 14%, 5th best in baseball and 2nd best in the AL.

Lindor's defense behind Carrasco may not have had a ginormous effect on the increase in his run prevention after June 15, either. This isn't exactly a thorough, comprehensive look at each individual defensive play involving Indians shortstops behind Carrasco, but here's some data taken from baseballsavant.com:

Ground ball BABIP to the shortstop with Carrasco on the mound:

Lindor call up

GB BABIP to SS

Pre

.059 (1/17)

Post

.083 (3/36)

And total BABIP to the shortstop with Carrasco on the mound:

Lindor call up

BABIP to SS

Pre

.048 (1/21)

Post

.146 (6/41)

Indians shortstops only allowed one hit and one error on BIP hit to them with Carrasco on the mound prior to Lindor's call up.

2016

Carrasco will enter 2016 as a potential fantasy ace, and one that could provide good value on draft day. I don't know what his ADP will be come March, but Carrasco finished 59th overall in Yahoo's 5x5 last year, and it's probably reasonable to expect it to be somewhere around there. His 3.63 ERA in 2015, which was 37th among starters, may knock his ADP down further than his upside warrants, which could conceivably end up in the top 30 when 2016 is over. Carrasco's ability to miss bats is elite, and if he can continue to generate weak contact at an above average level like he did during his final 17 starts, he could be one of the best values on draft day.