But in 2011, Carl was just unbelievable.
Carl, a Farmington native and alum of Piedra Vista High and the University of New Mexico, burst on the scene last year and put up strikeout numbers that would make Aroldis Chapman and Craig Kimbrel jealous.
Splitting the season between Royals’ affiliates Idaho Falls of the Rookie Pioneer League and Class-A Kane County, Carl posted a 2.25 ERA and went 3-1, with five saves. He only walked five batters in 36 innings and had a ridiculous 76 strikeouts.
“It’s not like I was going out there and trying to strike everybody out; it just worked out that way,” Carl said. “I wasn’t doing anything different than I am now; it was just one of those years, I guess.”
It was also one of those years that not too many undrafted free agents – or any pitchers – have duplicated. Carl’s 19.0 strikeouts per nine innings led all of baseball in 2011. Chapman, the Cincinnati Reds closer, and Kimbrel, who closes for the Atlanta Braves, are each on pace to break the MLB record for the best strikeouts per nine innings rate in a season this year. Chapman has struck out 15.89 per nine innings; Kimbrel’s rate is 16.16.
For his efforts, Carl was named the 2011 Idaho Falls Pitcher of the Year, was a Pioneer League All-Star and won the MiLB Short-Season Reliever of the Year award.
Not bad for a guy who was hardly recruited out of high school.
Despite being named the 2006 New Mexico Player of the Year as a senior, Carl drew little interest from Division I schools and scouts before enrolling at Eastern Arizona College, a community college in Thatcher.
“In my area, not too many people get to be seen,” Carl said.
Carl spent two years at EAC before coming home to play with the Lobos. After two mostly successful years with UNM, Carl was expecting to hear his name called during the 2010 MLB draft. But once again, he was ignored.
“I talked to numerous scouts throughout the year, and they all thought I’d get selected,” Carl said. “It was disappointing; people were calling me during the draft and saying they’d take me with the next pick, but it didn’t happen. When my name didn’t pop up it was definitely disappointing.”
After the draft, Carl signed with Kansas City, and since then he has used that disappointment as motivation.
“It definitely gave me a push to prove myself every time I go out there,” Carl said.
Carl finished his monster 2011 season as the closer for Kane County but began this season as a starter. While his numbers are nowhere near as impressive as in 2011, Carl showed enough to jump another level in the Royals organization.
After 11 starts, he was moved to High Class-A Wilmington and its bullpen. He is 7-4, with a 2.92 ERA with 102 strikeouts in 114 innings, which gives him the 25th-best strikeouts per nine innings ratio in the minors. C”I knew my strikeouts weren’t going to be nearly as high,” Carl said. “But I’m just trying to stay consistent and work on all my pitches.”
Carl will finish this season pitching for Wilmington in the Carolina League playoffs then return to the desert to participate in the Arizona Fall League with the Surprise Saguaros.
“That’s a pretty big opportunity for me,” Carl said. “I might be able to jump a level or two next year but I’m just going to see how the rest of this year unfolds.”
FALL LEAGUES: Carl won’t be the only player with ties to New Mexico playing in the Arizona Fall League. Former Lobo pitcher Bobby LaFromboise will play for Peoria, where he’ll be teammates with single-season stolen base king Billy Hamilton. Adalberto Santos, who played one season at New Mexico Junior College in Hobbs, will play for Scottsdale.
— This article appeared on page D5 of the Albuquerque Journal