Height/Weight: 6’0”, 173 lbs.
FB Velocity: 96-98
DOB: May 27. 1999
Dallas Baptist has become a pipeline of versatile position players and power pitchers over the last decade, and this year’s upperclassmen continue that trend. Their heady shortstop, Jimmy Glowenke, projects to be drafted on day two, and hard-throwing reliever Burl Carraway, the subject of this piece, should go about a round earlier. Carraway’s raw stuff is in the top tier of 2020 eligible arms, and his performance for the Patriots has been outstanding, though he really hasn’t had a chance to throw all that many college innings.
Carraway really wasn’t a pro prospect as a prep player. PG had him rated as a “High Follow” in their overall prep rankings in 2017, and the #573 LHP in that class. At the time, the College Station native was sitting in the mid-80s. Considering what his mechanics look like, it’s not surprising that this resulted in him being viewed as a pure college prospect at the time. Since that point, however, his stuff has taken a quantum leap. In his time with DBU, his fastball has gained over ten full ticks, and now sits in the mid-to-upper 90s. Backing up the heater is a snapping 1 to 7 curveball that has more than enough bite to generate swings and misses at a high clip.
The reason that Carraway is a pure reliever has little to do with his stuff. Almost any pitcher in this class would happily trade their top two offerings for Carraway’s plus fastball/curveball combination, and while Carraway doesn’t really have a third pitch, he’s far from alone in that as a draft prospect. So why is it that he projects as a day 1 relief pitcher?
The above clip gives a good summary of the Burl Carraway experience. You can see him landing both of his high-end offerings, but you also get a good view of all the mechanical funk that is present here. There are... a lot of moving parts in Carraway’s delivery, and he moves very rapidly though it. Much of Carraway’s velocity is generated in his lower half, by way of leg drive. He also adds to his juice by generating a lot of trunk rotation, almost turning his back the hitter at the top of his delivery. This all adds up to a nuclear 96-98 mph heater, but the complex nature of the delivery creates some complications for him. His release point tends to be a little all over the place, which can lead to him losing pitches well out of the zone.
In college, this wasn’t a major obstacle for Carraway. Scattershot command can often be worked around at the college level, even at high-end programs like Dallas Baptist. College hitters aren’t as selective in general, and this is magnified when they step in against a pitcher with stuff like Carraway’s. There simply aren’t that many 98 mph fastballs in the college game, and it’s even rarer that they are paired with a plus breaking ball. All this is to say- while Carraway’s walk rates at DBU have been manageable (roughly 4.5 batters per 9), he will need to improve his location at least a tick to make it to a big league bullpen. DBU’s coaching staff is nationally recognized for their quality and commitment to data, so it’s fair to wonder how many more steps forward Carraway has in him as he’s already had access to high quality instruction.
Overall, I find Carraway to be very similar to former big league reliever Rex Brothers, and he also shares some similarity with Astros farmhand Shawn Dubin. Brothers was at times a dominant late inning stopper, but also frequently struggled with control issues that prevented him from pitching up to his tantalizing potential for much of his career. Carraway is a bit more athletic than Brothers, so there’s a chance he can conquer his scattershot nature and develop into a consistent closer in the bigs, but he is not money in the bank in that role.
Does he fit with Houston?
For the Astros to come away with Carraway, they would likely need to use their first selection on him as he projects as a top-90 pick, conservatively. New Astros GM James Click comes from a Tampa front office which drafted and developed relievers consistently, but using the team’s first selection on one would still be something of a departure. I’d consider Carraway a dark horse to go to the Astros, but he could fit nicely into the team’s 2021 bullpen if they are enticed by him.