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Joel Carreno: Hey, Why Not?

Yep, the early offseason has become stagnant enough that I'm writing about a waiver claim of a Double-A/Triple-A pitcher I'd like to see the Twins claim. Sorry everyone!

You MIGHT have to change your number if you end up in Minnesota, Joel.
You MIGHT have to change your number if you end up in Minnesota, Joel.

"Why can't we have nice things, too?"

That's a fairly natural reaction to seeing the Blue Jays acquire Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Emilio Bonifacio without having to even surrender their top prospect, T. The pros and cons of that trade aside, there's at least one potential silver lining for the Twins, and that would be the opportunity to claim Joel Carreno.

Carreno was designated for assignment by the Blue Jays once MLB approved the mega trade, and he's probably not really a player whose stats and stuff merit being DFA'ed.

Carreno will turn 26 during Spring Training next season, and is admittedly coming off a lousy 2012 season in which he posted a 6.14 ERA in 22 Major League innings and an 8.92 ERA in 36.1 Triple-A innings. And yes, I'm serious about wanting the Twins to claim him.

In 53.2 innings at Double-A, Carreno had a 3.86 ERA, 9.7 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 -- all of which are pretty much in line with his career Minor League numbers. He's struck out more than three times as many hitters as he's walked in 677 Minor League innings, and his incredibly small sample size at Triple-A Las Vegas isn't really worth reading much into for a number of reasons.

For one, it's just that -- microscopic. Yes, he was facing the best competition he's ever faced, but that sample also represents only five percent of his Minor League career. There's a lot more data to suggest some upside than there is the trainwreck of 2012.

Secondly, Carreno's biggest problem in 2012 was a crazy seven home runs allowed in those 36 innings. Throughout his career, he's only allowed 0.6 homers per nine innings as opposed to that 1.7 mark. Home runs can be a fluky stat, and when combined with his 6.7 BB/9 at Triple-A could simply be the result of a mechanical flaw.

Another theory was provided to me by my MLBTR colleague Mike Axisa on Twitter yesterday. I noted that I wouldn't put too much stock in the small sample size, as the PCL is a notoriously hitter-friendly league. Mike jumped into the conversation with Brandon Warne and me, noting that batters hit .298/.370/.455 as a whole in Las Vegas last season. Had those numbers come from even one player with the Red Wings, we'd likely be talking about how excited we are for his arrival in the Major Leagues. Instead, that's what Carreno's home park turned the average hitter into.

The atmosphere is so damaging to pitchers, that the Jays have actually held pitchers back from pitching there, preferring them to develop at Double-A. The Mets recently signed a two-year agreement with Las Vegas to make it the new home for their Triple-A affiliate, and right-hander Jeremy Hefner recalled his miserable experiences in the PCL:

"That's a place that you don't want to be as a pitcher," said Hefner, who suffered through 2011 with Tucson, San Diego's new home there. "That almost ruined my career."

The Twins found a gem last season when they claimed a 26-year-old off waivers from the Blue Jays in the form of Darin Mastroianni, and they've got a chance to do so again. Carreno is far, far from a sure bet to become a serviceable Major League starter, but he has the Minor League track record and peripheral stats to suggest it's at least possible. At the very least, he has a better track record than someone like Samuel Deduno, and with all of the open spots on the Twins' 40-man roster (they currently have eight), why not take a shot? I literally can't come up with a reason not to. After all, they gave Jeff Gray a roster spot last offseason.

Anywho, let's hope if I ever write 600+ words about Joel Carreno again, it's to say what a good decision it was for Terry Ryan to sign him since he's turned into a viable rotation option for the Twins.