Shane Carle began transitioning from starter to reliever in 2016 when he made eight appearances out of the bullpen for the Rockies’ Triple-A affiliate. That transition finally came together in 2018 in a solid season for the Braves. After two appearances for Gwinnett in 2018, it was off to Atlanta for Carle, who ended up staying with the big league team the rest of the regular season.
When I first saw this trade I saw nothing more than depth in the minors in case something were to happen over the course of the season - but as the season progressed Carle became more and more dependable and the Braves began using him in higher leverage situations where he did quite well for a majority of the season. While Carle definitely struggled with walks (10.4% BB%), and didn’t strike out a ton (16.6% K%) he got the job done by limiting hitters to a .216 batting average against and had a 46.7% GB%. Carle showcased a fastball that sat in the mid-90s, a fastball, changeup, slider, and curveball, quite an arsenal for a reliever.
Bottom line, what did Carle do in 2018?
Carle came out the gate looking like an elite reliever - a diamond in the rough before wearing down some over the course of the season. Carle went 4-1 with a 2.86 ERA, 3.54 FIP, 6.14 K/9, 3.86 BB/9, and 0.6 fWAR. He pitched very heavily when first called up in April, tossing over 18 innings with a stellar 1.98 FIP and 3.40 xFIP. The rest of his season was more of a mixed bag, with good stretches (June and July) and some brutal ones (May was much less successful than April; Carle was straight-up awful for most of the last two months of the year). He finished the season’s first half with a 3.97 xFIP, but that ballooned to an unplayable 5.87 (with way more walks than strikeouts) during his 14 innings in the second half. Perhaps it was fatigue, perhaps it was batters figuring him out. It didn’t quite tank all of his value for the year, but it wasn’t a great place to end up, and Carle did not make the playoff roster as a result.
Will Carle be on the 2019 roster? Not a doubt in my mind that Carle will make the team. But, he’s going to need to right his ship in a hurry, because if he posts another long stretch of more walks than strikeouts, his roster spot will evaporate.
What is he going to do in 2019? Now that he appears to have found a home - I think we have found about what Carle is capable of. He’s not an elite reliever by any means but his flexibility with pitching multiple innings has value. He could manage a mid-3 ERA, and finish the season with over 1.0 fWAR. Or, if he’s more like the poor-pitching version of himself from the season’s second half, he could do much worse.
Highlight of 2018: One of Carle’s most impressive outings came in April in Cincinnati. He pitched two scoreless innings in a tie game to prevent the Braves from losing, retiring feared lefties Joey Votto and Scooter Gennett after a leadoff single, and then throwing a 1-2-3 frame afterwards. The next time Votto and Gennett came up (against Max Fried), they both reached base and Gennett hit a walkoff homer off a same-handed pitcher.
Lowlight of 2018: Carle had a few meltdowns. One that stands out came in May, when, after the Braves got a hard-earned run to tie the game in the bottom of the eighth, he immediately allowed a go-ahead home run to Devin Mesoraco (a right-handed batter). (The Braves ended up winning on a Charlie Culberson walkoff two-run homer.)