Padres Prospect Interview: Felix Carrasco

FORT WAYNE, IN: First baseman Felix Carrasco, along with fellow countryman Yefri Carvajal, has had to deal with high expectations since the Padres signed the switch-hitter out of the Dominican Republic two years ago.

Carrasco was a third baseman, but injuries and his body filling out forced a move to first base. He performed well in his debut season, hitting .273/.347/.483 as a 19-year-old in the Arizona League, but last year was a different story.

Although his average was good in the Arizona League, .288; he showed little of the expected power Padres' scouts had projected for him with only one extra base hit in 61 plate appearances. It got worse in Eugene where he finished up at .184/.245/.245, as injuries and an inability to get comfortable hindered his performance.

The Padres seemed to show increasing frustration with his inability to put numbers in the short-season league and made a decision that they were going to find out what they did or did not have by starting him in Fort Wayne.

Grady Fuson, the Padres vice president of scouting and player development, said before the season to

"We're going to give this a run. He's been in our Arizona program for two years and we have to begin to find out what he is going to bring to the party. He's going to be given an opportunity and if he doesn't succeed we have two kids back in extended that will be given a shot. I'm not saying that it is his last chance, but out of respect to our Latin American program and him we have to see what he can do in a full-season league."

It wasn't exactly a ringing endorsement but so far Carrasco, 21, has responded. He was named to the Midwest League All-Star team, won the Midwest League All-Star Home Run Derby, and has shown an ability to play every day and perform.

His current numbers reflect more of his potential than actual performance. His best month was in May, where he hit .288/.367/.575, but he's struggled in the second half. Carrasco is a much better hitter against right-handed pitching, .290/.381/.458, than against lefties, .155/.269/.336 but is still among the leaders on the team in extra-base hits and walks, and at 6-foot-2 and at least 240-pounds he has some power potential.

Also, for fans of Baseball Prospectus, he is the Padres entry in the "three true outcomes" category with 380 plate appearances, and in those plate appearances he has 50 base-on-balls, 14 home runs and 134 strikeouts. Which means in over half of his at-bats the defense isn't involved in the outcome [statistics through August 7].

So what does Grady think of Carrasco's performance now?

In a recent interview with LaMond Pope of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, Fuson was asked what he thought the biggest surprise of the year for the Wizards:

"Felix (Carrasco) is the biggest surprise. We've been battling with this kid for 2 1/2 years in Arizona and a little in Eugene, trying to get him over the hump. …And he answered the bell. Here's a guy who never hit more than two home runs in his career and he has (14) for you. He's been durable. The biggest surprise would be him. I'm certainly happy for him."

Last year you had a tough year, but this year you have played much better. What is the reason behind your success?

Felix Carrasco: This year, I didn't have any injuries so it's one of the reasons I believe that I am playing better.

Do you feel more comfortable at the plate this year because of this?

Felix Carrasco: I've felt good all year and feel that I am ready to play every day.

When did you become a switch-hitter?

Felix Carrasco: In the beginning, I was a left-handed hitter only in the past few years have I tried batting from the right side.

So you were a natural left-handed hitter growing up?

Felix Carrasco: Yes, that is correct. A few years ago, I started to try to hit from the right.

How have you been adjusting with the move from third base to first?

Felix Carrasco: I enjoy playing both, anywhere as long as I am in the lineup.

When you look at your statistics it seems that you don't like to involve the defense in the game. Nearly half your plate appearances have resulted in a walk, strikeout or home run. Do you only like to compete against the pitcher?

Felix Carrasco: No, no, no [laughing] I like everyone to play.

You draw quite a few walks and seem to have a pretty good idea of what you want to hit. How have you improved your pitch recognition?

Felix Carrasco: I'm just trying to look for my pitch and only swing at a pitch that I think I can do something with.

Statistics show that you are a much better hitter against right-handed pitchers than against left-handed pitchers. What are your doing to improve your numbers against lefties?

Felix Carrasco: In the beginning, I was just a left-handed hitter and now I'm trying right-handed too so it's going to take some time. Every day, I try to make sure that I get extra practice on the right side and hopefully I will get better.

What is the biggest adjustment both on and off the field from the Dominican Republic to the United States?

Felix Carrasco: I like playing here because we have a lot of fans that come out to our games as compared to Arizona. Also, the pitching is better here.

How about off the field?

Felix Carrasco: Oh I don't know it's pretty much the same. The people are very nice here and I like Indiana.

A special thank you to Fort Wayne closer Jackson Quezada for providing translating this interview.

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