Name: Sawyer Carroll
DOB: May 9, 1986
Selected in the third-round of the 2008 draft, Carroll was immediately assigned to short-season Eugene.
Six hits in his first two games began the assault, and he didn't let up. Carroll hit .299 across 46 games with 25 extra-base hits, including eight homers. He scored 41 times and notched 39 RBI. Carroll also drew 32 walks compared to 48 strikeouts for a .403 on-base percentage.
Of his 53 hits, 47.2 percent went for extra bases and 13 came with runners on base – where he batted .341. Carroll was 5-for-9 with the bases loaded and recorded 15 multi-hit games.
A left-handed hitter, Carroll batted .340 off southpaws and .282 off righties. He was also a much better hitter away from home where he batted .386 – compared to the .213 mark he had at Civic Stadium.
The Kentucky alumnus was second in the league with a .951 OPS and second with a .249 ISO (Isolated Power). Carroll also placed second with a .437 wOBA (weighted On Base Average) and his 15.5 wRAA (weighted Runs Above Average based off wOBA) placed him fourth – despite playing in far less games than most players in the league.
The Oklahoma native was promoted at a time when he led the Northwest League in extra base hits and slugging percentage. He ended the season second in slugging and eight off the pace of the league leader in extra base hits.
Carroll played in 18 games with Fort Wayne, hitting .219 while striking out 19 times compared to five walks. He began his full-season tenure with two hits across his first 21 at-bats before hitting .279 the rest of the way. Three of his 14 hits went for extra bases.
"He actually had a tough schedule," Fort Wayne hitting coach Tom Tornicasa said of Carroll's 2008 debut with Fort Wayne. "We were facing Lansing and 10 out of the 13 pitchers they had were left-handed. Some of those guys had great stuff. He (A left-handed batter) didn't really get a fair shake.
"We went over some of the things that he had to work on while he was here. He worked hard over the winter to accomplish those changes and looked great in spring. He started off well here and had a good idea of what he needed to do. We stayed on track with that and polished some things up along the way. He did a real nice job from start to finish."
Fort Wayne was the beginning of a three-league tour during 2009, pushed because of age and performance. Carroll spent 66 games with the TinCaps, hitting .316 with 26 extra-base hits, 43 runs scored and 40 RBI. He also drew 40 walks compared to 57 strikeouts for a .410 on-base percentage. He was named to the Midwest League All-Star team and went 4-for-4 with a pair of stolen bases, earning MVP honors. He also hit .384 with runners in scoring position.
Lake Elsinore saw him for just 37 games. He hit .320 over that span with 22 extra-base hits, driving in 42 while scoring 28 runs. He topped the .400 mark (.402) in on-base percentage and hit .422 with runners in scoring position.
"To me he is a baseball player," Lake Elsinore manager Carlos Lezcano said. "He came in here and had like 40-some RBI in 30-some games. He's a good RBI guy, number three hitter for me. He's a good outfielder, an average runner, looks to me like a Will Clark body. To me he's a good prospect. He should play in the big leagues some day if he keeps going the way he's going. I like the way he plays."
Carroll finished the campaign in San Antonio, hitting .317 over a 28-game span with nine extra-base hits. His 18-to-16 walk-to-strikeout ratio resulted in a .440 on-base percentage.
For the year, Carroll notched 96 RBI and 88 runs scored while hitting .317 across three levels – an amazing year that was done quietly.
"This guy's essentially fearless, I mean, he had the confidence that is not cocky," former San Antonio and current Portland manager Terry Kennedy said. "He hit at every level. He had .317 in the short time with us. And he was second in the organization with 96 RBI. So, he did it at every level, did it for us. He played a good outfield, he's got a good arm and is an average runner for speed, but he's a pretty good base runner, pretty smart.
"I think he'll have to go back there to start but he did a really good job. It was a nice pick for us, and he has the kind of attitude that will enable him to keep improving and get to where we want him to be."
Carroll's strength is in his opposite field approach – something that took huge strides in 2009. He has a master of taking the ball where it is pitch and delivering it to all parts of the field. His plate coverage is excellent, as he goes with an outside pitch to left field and pulls balls on the inner half.
"Sawyer really grinds it out," former Fort Wayne and current San Antonio manager Doug Dascenzo said. "He loves to play the game of baseball. Hard-nosed, leads by example. He turned on the power numbers as well, turning on a couple of balls and hitting them way out. He has the ability to hit the ball the other way, which is always nice to see."
The universal belief is that Carroll will show more power in the coming years. In lieu of power this season, he worked on the parts of his game that needed assistance – like using the whole field. He has an uppercut in his swing that should generate higher power numbers in the coming years.
"He made tremendous improvement in using the whole field," former Padres vice president of scouting and player development Grady Fuson said. "When we first got him, he could not handle the ball away, he was pulling everything. He made some remarkable improvements. He was a little older than the league in a couple of places, and we needed to push him to where his age was the equal of his play. He hit .317 between three levels, and we think his power levels will take a big leap next year because he sacrificed some of that to develop into a better hitter."
"This year we saw a guy who was very selective at the plate, had the ability to hit the ball to all fields, a lot of doubles, into the gaps the other way, a lot of doubles to the pull side," Dascenzo said. "I don't know how many homeruns he ended up hitting for us this year in Fort Wayne, 7 or 8 maybe, something like that. He'll learn to pull the ball as he moves up the ladder, some more pull power."
The outfielder has worked on toning down a wrap in his swing that has had his bat head pointed at the pitcher right before he swings. That will make him late, at times, in getting his bat head into the hitting zone. It can also make the inside pitch tough to hit since his hands have so far to go.
"Just a little inconsistent," former San Antonio and current Portland hitting coach Orv Franchuk said. "Sometimes his effort level got real big, and as a result, he wouldn't put a good swing on the ball but stayed within himself. The other thing mechanically we worked on making sure he has some rhythm and movement and stuff with his load and so every once in a while it would be a little bit tardy or a little bit late getting all that done, and as a result, he wouldn't put a good swing on the ball."
Carroll adjusted nicely during the season and found the balance to improve his overall pitch selection. He has a firm understanding of the strike zone and will take what he is given. He can fall into spurts of being pull-conscious, affecting his plate awareness.
"Very well prepared, mature, understands the hitting process; took his walks when he didn't get anything good to hit," Franchuk said. "As little time as he's had in professional baseball, I was very impressed with how he handled, how he played the game. He made adjustments, Double-A pitching – for me the biggest jump is from A-Ball to Double-A. To me that Double-A is the biggest adjustment, because Double-A to Triple-A and Triple-A to the Big Leagues are just not that big a deal."
An above-average runner, Carroll went 19-for-27 in the stolen base department. He doesn't have a great first-step but is fluid when in motion. Using his smarts, Carroll can take advantage of slow moves to home plate or sleeping fielders.
Blessed with a strong arm, Carroll made improvements with his overall range and ability to track balls. He made several tough plays and was consistent fielding the routine fly balls. He ended up with 14 outfield assists across three leagues, flashing an accurate arm that found the cutoff man.
"It really surprised me how well he played defensively," Dascenzo said. "He made some nice long running, sliding catches into foul territory. A nice arm that got quite a few assists."
One consistent trait that everyone in the organization was adamant about was his attitude about the game. Words such as ‘competitor' and ‘fearless' and ‘hard-working' became synonymous with Carroll. He did everything that was asked of him and more.
Playing up to the level he appeared in, the Kentucky alumnus put in the extra time to learn the nuances of the pitchers he would face to be as well prepared as possible.
"He's a very good competitor, very good competitor," roving hitting coordinator Tony Muser said. "Not what you'd call a classic swing, but a competitive swing. He made a great adjustment early on in his second year of not being pull conscience. He's doubles oriented, uses left center field, uses right center field. He's got a lot of loft in his swing and a future to hit with more power.
"A very good competitor and probably, among our left-handed hitters, even throwing Decker in the mix, a very good competitor against left-handed pitching; which is something that I kind of keep in the back of my mind as how they approach left-handed pitching. He stays in there real good, doesn't give in, will take the ball the other way. I like him. He's kind of low-keying it; hasn't set the world on fire, but has done a very good job because we've pushed him too."
Conclusion: Carroll was tasked with several things entering 2009 and met each challenge, exceeding expectations in some areas. As a result, there are no real glaring weaknesses in his game. He has a solid foundation and is strong mentally. Cutting down more on his wrap and finding that power are two areas that must continue to develop. If he finds those two quickly, Carroll can be helping the big league club in short order.
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