Oakland A's Prospect Profile: Chris Carter
Name: Chris Carter
H/W: 6'5''/ 225 LB
Coming out of a Las Vegas area high school in 2005, Chris Carter was overlooked by a number of teams during that year's draft. The lanky corner infielder was considered a project at the time of the draft and many teams thought that he would be better served playing collegiate baseball before turning pro. The Chicago White Sox took a flier on Carter in the 15th round that season, and he quickly began to prove that he was far from unpolished.
Carter was assigned to Bristol of the Rookie-level Appalachian League in 2005 and he immediately opened a lot of eyes by hitting 10 homeruns in only 233 at-bats. Carter also demonstrated above-average plate discipline for an 18-year-old (.283 BA and a .350 OBP). The White Sox were so impressed with Carter's pro debut that they sent him to a full-season affiliate as a 19-year-old to start the 2006 season.
Carter's development hit a small bump in the road at the start of the 2006 season with Low-A Kannapolis. He struggled in his first taste of full-season baseball, collecting only six hits in his first 46 at-bats. Carter was sent back to extended spring training to work on some mechanical issues and was eventually reassigned to short-season Great Falls of the Pioneer League. He got himself back on track with Great Falls, batting .299 with 15 homers and a 968 OPS in 251 at-bats.
At the start of the 2007 season, Carter returned to Low-A Kannapolis. This time, he handled the level with relative ease. The right-handed batter hit 25 homers (good for third in the league) and drove-in 93 runs in 126 games for Kannapolis. Carter had a .291/.383/.522 line for the Intimidators, and he was named as a post-season all-star for the South Atlantic League.
The off-season has been eventful for Carter, who has changed organizations twice. Carter was dealt from the Chicago organization to the Arizona Diamondbacks at the start of baseball's Winter Meetings for outfielder Carlos Quentin. He spent only two weeks as part of the Arizona chain before he was swapped to Oakland in the Dan Haren deal.
When he was drafted, Carter was a wiry, tall third baseman. Since that time, his body has matured and he has added a significant amount of muscle and now tips the scales at 225 pounds. His frame reminds some scouts of former A's and current White Sox outfielder Jermaine Dye, as, like Dye, Carter has long arms and legs and a thin, but muscular build. Carter doesn't have the athleticism that Dye had as a young player, but he does have similar bat speed and ability to hit with power to all fields.
Power is often the last tool to develop in a young player, but that hasn't been the case for Carter. He already has a good understanding of when to try to pull pitches into the seats and when to try simply to make contact. Like many sluggers, Carter strikes out a good amount (112 strikeouts in 126 games), but he sees a lot of pitches and does a good job of taking walks (67 in 2007). In fact, it was Carter's plate patience that improved the most during his stint at extended spring training in 2006.
Despite being a power-hitter, Carter has done a good job of hitting for average throughout his minor league career. He has a good approach at the plate and he goes up the middle and to right-field well. Carter pounded lefties in 2007, batting .341 with a 946 OPS in 138 at-bats versus southpaws. Versus right-handers, Carter had a .271 BA and an 890 OPS. He is an intimidating presence in the batter's box and he is very coachable, something that has allowed him to succeed against older pitchers.
Defensively and on the base-paths, Carter still remains very much a work-in-progress. He was switched from third to first base by the White Sox in 2006 after he committed 13 errors in 38 games at third base in 2005. Carter has played better at first than he did at third, but he still struggles with his footwork around the bag and handling the short-hops. His arm is average for a first baseman. Carter has average speed for a man his size, but he isn't an instinctive runner and will likely be a station-to-station player throughout his career. That shouldn't be a problem in the Oakland chain, where players are strongly discouraged from making outs on the base-paths.
Carter gives the A's a legitimate power prospect, something that they haven't had many of over the past few years. In only 273 minor league games, Carter has already hit 51 homeruns during his short career. He just turned 21 yesterday and he could add even more power as he finishes growing into his large frame. Carter should be sent to High-A Stockton to start the 2008 season, and he could put up monstrous power numbers in the hitter-friendly California League.
The A's will likely give Carter a decent amount of time at first base, but they will be most concerned about his development offensively, as he has the bat to be a legitimate DH in the major leagues if he doesn't improve his glove. He is likely two or three years away from being ready to contribute at the major league level, so he has plenty of time to get better with the glove.
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