April 18, 2009 - 4:10pm ET
Chris Carter is a big, strong nerd.
Or better said: an intelligent and powerful first-base prospect.
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So what is the deal with Chris Carter? Why is he not starting somewhere in the big leagues? Well, mostly it is his lack of defense, but also partly, it's about opportunity. Finally a Red Sox, his real shot might be just a season away.
When the 2004 MLB draft approached, many professional teams were weary of Chris Carter. He was coming out of Stanford University with the reputation as a legit power prospect with unmatched intelligence and work ethic. He intends to eventually achieve his doctorate and make a post-baseball career as a pediatric surgeon. As smart and talented as he was, he carried a major flaw.
At Stanford, Carter showed excellent plate discipline, bat speed, and power, but he could not field a position. He spent a lot of time DH-ing for the Cardinals. It was the reason he slipped all the way to the 17th round when Arizona decided to take a chance on him.
Even then, the Diamondbacks knew that Carter projected out as a career designated hitter. A good one, but probably better suited for the AL none the less. Although Carter made defensive strides in the minors with his work around the first base bag, he was still a liability and looked like a possible bench option at best in Arizona. The Diamondbacks saw him as a guy who could come in the late innings as a pinch-hitter and provide some power.
In 2007, Carter spent the season at AAA-Tucson, where he mashed the ball to the tune of a .324/.383/.521 slash line, posting 18 HR with 87 RBI and 39 doubles in just 126 games. But Carter was just toiling away in the Diamondbacks system without much of a chance of seeing any big league action.
It was his second full season in the D'backs system and at that point, young Connor Jackson was firmly entrenched as the first baseman in Arizona. Without the option of DH-ing Carter, the Diamondbacks had no room for him. He asked to be traded and in August of 2007, the team obliged, shipping him to the Washington Nationals in exchange for pitcher Emiliano Fruto.
The Nats then promptly flipped Chris Carter to Boston to complete the deal that had originally sent OF Wily Mo Pena to the nation's capitol earlier in the season. Wily Mo Pena was a bust and Carter became the "player to be named later."
Now that Carter is in the Red Sox system, he wants to make a name for himself. He jumped right in to the thick of things at AAA-Pawtucket, where he blasted 24 HR in 121 games and carved out a .300 batting average to boot.
There is no question he can hit, but the question is, could he possibly be the future designated hitter of the Boston Red Sox? If David Ortiz truly is tailing off in to the twilight of his historic Red Sox career, then Carter might have glimmer of hope.
Most Red Sox fans know very little about Carter. No one is quite sure what to make of him. I have even heard folks say they thought he was a veteran journeyman first baseman.
Truth is, he's still young. At 26, Carter is just rounding in to who he will be as a major league hitter. Most likely though, Carter will remain an organizational soldier. That is to say, a guy who falls in line and does whatever the team needs of him. Up to the majors and back to the minors. Up to the majors again and back to the minors again. Rinse and repeat. Just filling a role.
Did you know that after his first major league at-bat, Fenway gave him a standing ovation?
"That was incredible," Carter said after the game in June of 2008. "I didn't expect it, either. I'm very appreciative. I hope there are many more to come. I was very happy."
In his first big league at-bat, Carter admitted to trying to hit a home run.
He was able to get good wood on the ball and blasted a single up the middle anyway. The umpire recognized the significance for Carter and gave him the ball. As he stood on first base, Fenway rose to its feet.
After the game Carter, was returned to AAA-Pawtucket as the Red Sox had other immediate needs, but Carter always knew some day he would be back in Boston. He is currently a bench option on the Red Sox major league roster, but will most likely return to AAA-Pawtucket once Mark Kotsay comes off the 60-day DL some time in May or June.
Last year, Carter was referred to by some scouts as "the best power hitting prospect no one knows about." Right now, he remains as such. But some time soon, Chris Carter may have his chance to pound the Green Monster nightly and receive some more of those standing ovations from the Fenway Faithful.
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Darryl Johnston is the Red Sox correspondent for Fanball.com. He has many years of sports writing under his championship belts. Email him - firstname.lastname@example.org