One of the six players they received from the Diamondbacks in the Dan Haren trade, the Athletics are actually Chris Carter‘s third organization. He was originally a 15th round pick by the White Sox in 2005, but they traded him straight up for Carlos Quentin in December of 2007. Eleven days later, Carter was swapped as part of the package for Haren, and 968 days after that, he made his Major League debut.
Before the trade, Carter slugged .522 (.224 ISO) with a 12.5 BB% and 24.0 K% as a 20-year-old in the Low-A South Atlantic League, certainly strong numbers for a kid playing 100+ games in a season for the first time. His power output exploded the next season, unsurprising in the notoriously hitter friendly High-A Cal League. Carter’s .310 ISO led the circuit by 40 points thanks to his 39 homers, and he still maintained a solid 12.9 BB%. The problem were the strikeouts, which clocked in at 30.8 K%, second highest in the league. Regardless, Baseball America ranked him the 76th best prospect in the game after the season.
Bumped up to Double-A Midland to start 2009, Carter enjoyed his finest pro season. Not only did he again lead the league in ISO (.239, led by 46 pts), but he still showed the same patient approach (13.8 BB%) while cutting down on the strike threes (24.3 K%). As a reward for his efforts, he received a statistically insignificant 13 game cameo with Triple-A Sacramento at the end of the season. All told, Carter posted career highs across the board in 2009 when he hit .329/.422/.570, and was named the 28th best prospect in baseball by the Baseball America gang after the campaign.
At 6-foot-5 and 230 lbs., Carter certainly passes the eye test as a power hitter. “Home runs always will be Carter’s calling card,” said the BA crew before the season started. “However, he dedicated himself to becoming a more complete hitter and stopped giving away at-bats … With his pure strength and explosive wrists, he still produces light-tower power. Carter can hit balls out of any part of any ballpark, and he’s strong enough to do so without having to sell out for power.” On the downside, they also note that he can get anxious at the plate and tends to jump at breaking balls, something that Carter will obviously have to work on.
Sent back to Triple-A to start the 2010 season, the A’s best prospect hit .262/.368/.531 with 27 homers in 503 plate appearances before getting the call over the weekend. He played his first game last night, going 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts, seeing a total of ten pitches as the A’s lost to Seattle.
Before the season, CHONE projected a .232/.311/.393 batting line for Carter, while ZiPS rest of the season projection has him at .233/.317/.416. Those high strikeout guys can have a tough time adjusting to big league pitching when they first get called up (cough Mike Stanton cough), so those predictions shouldn’t come as a surprise. Currently eligible at just 1B, Carter is playing LF for the A’s, so it’s only a matter of time before he gains eligibility there. He actually started his career as a third baseman (and even played a game at short in the minors), but that boat is long gone. 1B/OF will be his primary spots from here on out, and he isn’t particularly good at either (not that it matters here).
Given his home park and the offense around him, Carter’s fantasy value is likely to be low over the next two months and probably even next season. Given the rather mammoth production coming out of first baseman these days (seriously, 1B across the league are hitting .269/.354/.458) and some of the strong outfielders out there, I wouldn’t consider Carter for anything more than a injury fill-in at this point. If he goes on a tear and hits five homers in a week like he’s capable of, then by all means grab him. I’m just not confident in his ability to come up and produce right away.