Position: First Baseman
Carlson joined the Tigers as a bit of a surprise sign out of the 2006 draft. As a junior at New Mexico, Carlson was selected in the 29th round and was expected to return for his senior season to improve his draft stock. However, the Tigers staff yet again identified a player eager to turn pro and took a chance that he would sign.
After a standout high school career, Chris opted to attend Kansas State University. Before stepping on campus, Carlson garnered All-League, All-City, and All-State honors as a high school quarterback, while also earned 2nd Team All-State honors in baseball his senior season. For the entirety of his high school career, Carlson finished with school career records in home runs, doubles, RBI, hits, and at-bats. As a freshman at Kansas State, he notched a .255 average with 15 doubles and 32 RBI in limited playing time, on his way to earning 1st Team All-Academic Big 12 honors.
After not seeing sufficient playing time at K-State, Carlson opted to transfer to New Mexico and join a Lobo baseball squad that was looking for a potent middle of the order bat. In his first season in the Mountain West Conference, Carlson managed an impressive .395/.484/.736 line, on his way to becoming only the third Lobo in history to be named a 1st Team All-American and Academic All-American in the same season. His third collegiate season was nothing to scoff at either, as he was again named a Preseason All-American, ESPN the Magazine 1st Team All-Academic, Louisville Slugger 1st Team All-American, 1st Team All Mount West Conference, and All-MWC Tournament Team.
Upon joining the pro ranks in late June, Carlson picked up right where he left off; taking home two TigsTown monthly awards (July and August), as well as TigsTown's GCL Player of the Year award. In addition to the TigsTown awards, Chris was named to the GCL All-Star squad and the TOPPS Short-Single A/Rookie All-Star Team. On his way to these honors, Carlson managed to finish in the GCL top ten in hits, doubles, home runs, RBI, walks, average, on-base percentage, slugging, and OPS; leading the circuit in two-base hits, round trippers, runs driven in, slugging, and OPS.
Carlson's pure, raw power is going to have to carry him to the big leagues. He not only projects to hit for major power, but has hit for good power in hitter's leagues as a pro. He has plus, plus Major League power, and projects to have the ability to drive the ball out of any park on the planet. He uses his size and tremendous raw strength to generate great leverage and loft on nearly everything he hits. He does have some holes in his swing, notably with good fastballs on the inside corner, and with any sort of breaking pitch. Though he maintains reasonable plate discipline, his pitch recognition is holding him back from flying through the system.
He is a below average defender with poor speed. He has improved around the bag with the aid of professional instruction, but he still lacks the instincts to become an adequate defender at first base. His defensive profile screams designated hitter, and it is likely he will eventually make his way there full time.
He has good poise on the field, and takes a confident approach to his offensive game. He believes he can hit any pitcher and any pitch with authority, and to this juncture there has been little to suggest this approach is incorrect.
Carlson is not likely to ever hit for significant average, but he should power the ball to all fields and drive in plenty of runs. He is a solid middle of the order bat that will need to continue to hit to advance, because of his other deficiencies.
Performance Level Team AB AVG 2B HR RBI SO BB OBP% SLG% SS-A
Carlson has been healthy as a pro, avoiding many nagging injuries that would often come with his strong swing and aggressive approach at the plate.
Despite dominating the Gulf Coast League, many within the organization were not convinced he was ready for full-season ball. As a result, Carlson was held back and didn't start his 2007 season until June when the Oneonta Tigers were underway in the New York-Penn League. He has continued to hit for power, but many of his other weaknesses are starting to show through.
Expect Carlson to move up to West Michigan for the 2008 season, with a slim chance of splitting time at first base and DH with fellow '06 draftee Ryan Strieby at Lakeland next season. Strieby and AA first baseman Jeff Larish are definitely ahead of Carlson on the organizational depth chart, and he's going to need some seriously impressive performances to vault past those two power prospects.
Carlson is a nice find for a 29th round pick, and he should at least put together an impressive minor league career; but without significant advancement in other areas of his offensive game, he is unlikely to develop into much at the Major League level.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.