Mike Carp, not Carlos Peguero, should be playing LF for the Mariners

Jul 14, 2011, 9:31 AM | Updated: 2:00 pm
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Mariners left fielder Carlos Peguero is hitting .199 with six home runs in 45 games this season. (AP photo)

By Dave Cameron
Special to 710Sports.com

Two weeks ago, the Mariners optioned Mike Carp back to Tacoma to make room for Blake Beavan on the 25-man roster. By sending Carp out, the Mariners’ three-headed left field platoon become a more simple time share between Carlos Peguero and Greg Halman, with Peguero taking the at-bats that had been occasionally given to Carp while he was on the roster.

At the time, Shannon Drayer wrote a blog post helping explain why the Mariners were going forward with Peguero, and Eric Wedge talked about the things he liked about Peguero’s skillset. Taking the quotes at face value, it seems to make sense. Peguero clearly has some physical traits that Carp does not, and it is tempting to look at him and see a guy who could potentially turn into a big league power hitter, while Carp does not pass the “does this guy look like a good big league player?” test.

However, I’d like to suggest that we have a decent amount of evidence to suggest that if you wanted to bet on either of them becoming decent Major League players, you should almost certainly bet on Carp. And yes, this means that the Mariners currently have the wrong guy playing left field in the Major Leagues.

Despite Peguero’s youthful face and Carp’s — I’ll just try to put this as gently as I can — not youthful face, it can be easy to overlook the fact that they’re actually pretty close to the same age. Carp was born in June of 1986, while Peguero was born just eight months later in February of 1987. Peguero might seem like the young kid with a lot of potential growth ahead of him, and Carp might seem like a grizzled Triple-A veteran who gets exposed by big league pitching, but the reality is that they’re at pretty similar points in their career.

In fact, if we compare their performances throughout the minor leagues, we can see pretty clearly that Carp has been better than Peguero at nearly every point along their development path.

We’ll start with their age 19 seasons, since that’s the year Peguero made his professional debut in the states. Peguero spent most of his season in the Arizona complex league, the lowest level of competition of any affiliated minor league in the U.S. He hit well in the small spring training ballparks, but was then overmatched upon getting promoted to Everett, where he faced college-aged pitchers who were able to exploit his flaws at the plate.

Carp
Mike Carp played sparingly when he was called up to the Mariners last month, hitting .200 in 15 games before being sent back to Triple-A Tacoma. (AP photo)

Meanwhile, Carp spent his age 19 season in low-A Hagerstown, a full-season league that featured better competition than either of the two leagues Peguero played in, and he performed fairly well, showing surprising power for a player his age at that level.

At age 20, Peguero moved up to low-A Wisconsin, his first taste of full-season baseball. He showed some power but also struggled with an overly aggressive approach and was fairly mediocre at the plate overall. Carp, though, moved up to high-A and the pitcher friendly Florida State League, maintaining his quality offensive line even as some of his home runs became doubles in the larger ballparks.

At 21, Peguero reached high-A with High Desert and moved into arguably the best offensive environment in all of minor league baseball. The place is an absolute launching pad. Despite that, Peguero was a pretty mediocre hitter, and his continued aggressiveness at the plate went to a new extreme as he drew just 10 walks in 385 trips to the plate. Carp also struggled at age 21, but he was facing Double-A pitching for the first time, and he was in a park that isn’t nearly as conducive to hitting.

At 22, Peguero finally put himself on the map to some degree after being asked to repeat high-A ball. Back in the hitter-friendly confines of High Desert, he launched 31 home runs and actually started taking pitches, drawing 42 walks in the process. Of course, his strikeout rate also went way up, so it wasn’t a total success, but it was at least a step forward. Meanwhile, Carp was also re-establishing himself at age 22 after being asked to repeat Double-A, where he was one of the best hitters in the league.

At 23, Peguero moved up to Double-A for the first time, and predictably he lost a decent amount of his offensive prowess after moving out of High Desert. He still maintained the improved walk rates, but also the incredibly high strikeout rates, and his ability to make contact with good pitching continued to be a problem.

Meanwhile, Carp was traded to the Mariners before his age 23 season, and would go on to make his Triple-A debut with Tacoma that year. He was OK for the Rainiers, but was significantly better with the Mariners after a short September call-up to end the season.

At 24, Peguero was sent to Tacoma to begin his Triple-A stint, where was basically a league average hitter before getting called up to the Majors. Despite occasional flashes of power, he’s been one of the worst hitters in baseball since reaching the show. At the same age, Carp doubled his home run total for the Rainiers, showing power that he hadn’t possessed previously. This time, however, he struggled in his cup of coffee in the big leagues and basically lost his spot with the team after the organization acquired Justin Smoak.

Now 25 (as of two weeks ago), we know Carp’s story for 2011 — he was one of the best hitters in the PCL to begin the season, but didn’t play much upon coming up and is now back in Triple-A. Despite his struggles in Seattle, though, it’s worth noting that Carp was better in Tacoma this season than Peguero has ever been in the minors. It’s not even particularly close.

And that’s basically the theme of their careers — Carp has always been the better player. Carp was better in rookie ball, he was better in A-ball, he was better in Double-A, and he was vastly better in Triple-A. Even with Carp’s struggles in the majors the last two seasons, his career line as a big leaguer is .246/.351/.341, dwarfing the .199/.250/.376 mark Peguero has put up in Seattle.

There is no level of professional baseball where Carlos Peguero has ever produced as well as Mike Carp. Carp has played against better competition at younger ages and has hit better in parks that are tougher on the team’s hitters. He might not be able to hit a line drive out of the stadium in three seconds flat, but he can identify the difference between a fastball and a curveball and understands that he can’t make contact with a pitch that bounces at his feet.

I don’t think Mike Carp is going to be a high quality Major League player or the kind of guy that you want playing left field on a contending team, but the Mariners like to talk about players earning their spots in the lineup and determining playing time based on a player’s performance — well, the evidence is rather overwhelming that Mike Carp has earned playing time in Seattle far more than Carlos Peguero has.

The M’s likely need to do better than either Carp or Peguero in left field if they’re going to solve some of their issues, but given their current options, the team has the alignment backwards. Peguero is the one who should be hanging out in Triple-A trying to show he can improve well enough to earn a big league opportunity, while Mike Carp is the one who has done enough to get a real look as a regular in the big leagues. The sooner the M’s switch the two, the better off the organization will be.

Dave Cameron of U.S.S Mariner writes biweekly for Brock & Salk’s blog on 710Sports.com.

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