Tennessee Players of the Month--August

The Double-A Tennessee Smokies have now produced one prospect in each of the last two years to get promoted to the Major Leagues without spending a day in Triple-A. Production gets rewarded and Tennessee's players of the month for August certainly produced.

Position Player--Chris Carter

Matt Morgan hit for a better average, and Dan Uggla hit as many home runs, but DH/first baseman Chris Carter was clearly head and shoulders above the rest of the Tennessee Smokies hitters.  As he has done all year Carter stood out among bigger names with higher expectations, and unlike Stephen Drew and Miguel Montero, who also were promoted midseason to Double-A after putting up incredible number at Hi-A Lancaster, Carter has continued to produce, or even improve, at the higher level.

In August Carter continued to hit for average power and most importantly, he continued to show patience at the plate.  In Carter's first season in the Short Season A Northwest League he 46 times in 148 at bats (striking out only 34 times), but during the first half of 2005 at Lancaster Carter became more of a free swinger, walking just 46 times in 416 at bats, and striking out on 66 occasions.  Whether it was the lure of the Jetstream that whips out toward right at Clear Channel Stadium in Lancaster or simply a desire to produce for more power, Carter has regained his form since moving to the Double-A Southern League. 

In August Carter hit .293 with seven homers and 22 RBI, certainly legit power and run production numbers, but he did it selectively, walking 15 times in 99 at bats during the month, and striking out only eight times.  It's almost as if Carter had been waiting to show his true abilities until he got to the higher levels.  Even in the hitter friendly Cal League he hit only 21 homers in those 400+ at bats, he already has 10 in 121 since joining the Smokies.  The question will of course become where does Carter play.  Though he's played some outfield his below average arm hurts him and his instincts could be better.  First base appears to be locked up by Tony Clark in the short term and Conor Jackson in the long term, but you can count on the fact that if Carter continues to mash the way he has the Diamondbacks will find a place for him in the next few years.

Pitcher--Dustin Nippert

One year ago Dustin Nippert might have been one of the longest shots in the Diamondbacks organization.  A 15th round pick out of West Virginia, Nippert was considered a steal because of a plus fastball and an incredible downward plane, the result of a 6'7" frame.  A big, sharp curveball immediately vaulted him into the upper eschelon of Diamondbacks starting pitching prospects, but a funny thing happened to Nippert on the way to the BOB.

Frankly, it wasn't that funny.  First Nippert underwent surgery to remove a tumor from below his arm.  The surgery went well, and Nippert was on his way back to dominance when the doctors gave Nippert more bad news, he was headed back to the operating table to repair a torn ligament in his pitching elbow.  Tommy John surgery has made the once career ending injury tolerable, but in Nippert's case the recovery has become something of legend.

Typical recovery time is 18 to 24 months.  On May 29th Nippert took the mound, less than a full year after surgery, and he has been fantastic.  On the season he has a 8-3 record and a stearling 2.38 ERA, and in August, when his reconstructed arm should in theory be tiring, he was at his best.  In six starts Nippert was 3-0, he averaged nearly seven innings a start, held opponents to a .208 batting average and carried a 1.12 ERA, allowing just five earned during the month.  How good was he?  He's no longer a Smokie, the Diamondbacks elected to give Nippert a shot at the big time, promoting him straight from Double-A to the big league club as part of September roster expansion.

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