Lately (before my computer crashed last week, rendering my Internet time scarce; sorry for the recent lack of material), I have been doing comprehensive evaluations of A's players to see where they are in their careers and what to expect from them in 2010 and beyond.
The first two evaluations were of pitchers—Dallas Braden and Josh Outman—so this time, I'm switching gears and looking at the player who has seemingly all A's fans excited: Triple-A first baseman Chris Carter.
Carter sure can hit. He hit .337/.435/.576 (yes, really) at Double-A this season before hitting .259/.293/.519 in a brief Triple-A look in August.
Concerned about the dropoff? Don't be. Carter went off during the Triple-A playoffs, homering in four straight games. Those numbers aren't included in his overall line, but do show that he already is a more than competent Triple-A hitter.
Carter hit 28 homers (not counting the playoff spree) between the two levels this season, which was actually 11 fewer than he hit in the previous year. Again, don't sweat the drop: It's mainly league-and-park-based, as Carter spent 2008 in the hitter's paradise Cal League. In 2009, he hit 11 more doubles than 2008 as well, so his power hasn't gone anywhere.
At 22, Carter wasn't young for Double-A, but a .450 wOBA would make him a prospect even if he was 26. For good measure, he even stole 13 bases in 18 tries.
Carter is a disciplined hitter at the plate who walked 85 times this year, up from 77 in 2008. His one weakness—strikeouts—improved this year, as he cut his whiffs from 156 to 133. This allowed his average to jump from .259 in High-A to .337 in Double-A, despite playing in a higher level and more pitcher-friendly league.
Statistically, Carter is a beast.
With hitters, the numbers pretty much speak for themselves. There was concern entering the year about Carter's swing: Some scouts thought it was too long and would keep his K's up and averages down, but his improvement has put the majority of those concerns to rest.
Scouts agree that Carter has 40-HR potential and will walk a fair amount as well. The question is what type of average he will hit for. Some scouts think he'll be an Adam Dunn-style .250 hitter, while others think he could hit .320. The most common figure tossed out is .280-.290.
Barring something unforeseen (and hey, with prospects, anything can happen), Carter will develop into an excellent hitter, but his batting average will dictate if he's a fringe All-Star (.250), Silver Slugger contender (.280) or MVP candidate (.320).
Carter is a good athlete for his bulk (6'4" 235) and has 10-SB potential.
Defensively, Carter isn't very good. While he's athletic, he lacks instincts or quick reactions, leaving him with subpar range. He also has hard hands and doesn't field the ball well.
Carter does possess an excellent arm, and while he isn't very good at any position, he does have experience at first, third, left, and right, so he does bring versatility to the table. His ability to play third in the majors is questionable, but he's an OK first baseman and is at least as good as Jack Cust in the outfield.
Ultimately, Carter is a player to be excited about, and he'll enter 2010 with a legitimate shot to burst onto the scene. There are some parallels between Carter and Ryan Braun, who had a huge offensive explosion in 2007. While expecting Carter to get off to Braun's Pujols-esque start is stupid, a 25-HR season isn't setting the bar too high, in my opinion.
Of course, Carter still has only one month of AAA experience, so another one or two months in Sacramento wouldn't hurt. With Daric Barton, Tommy Everidge, and Brett Wallace all on the first base depth chart as well, the A's have some other more experienced options to consider at the position.
Carter should be a factor in Oakland no later than next July. He has the potential to be a right-handed version of David Ortiz.