30 Players in 30 Days: Chris Carter
The Chicago White Sox drafted Chris Carter in the 15th round of the 2005 MLB Draft. Carter produced in the minor leagues, and in 2007 was traded twice in a span of 11 days. First to the Arizona Diamondbacks and then to the Oakland Athletics where he would spend the next five seasons. In six minor league seasons, Carter hit .283 with a .913 OPS and 182 home runs. He would debut with the A’s in 2010, but struggled and did not exceed rookie limits until 2012 when he hit 16 home runs in just 67 games.
In February of 2013, the Houston Astros sent Jed Lowrie and Fernando Rodriguez to the A’s for Brad Peacock and Carter. Carter split time between left field, first base, and DH in his first season with the Astros. He hit 29 home runs and had a .320 OBP, but struck out a league-high 212 times (third most all time). In 2014, Carter was the main DH option and slugged 37 home runs, struck out 182 times and slashed .252/.338/.521 in the second half.
The team traded for Evan Gattis and made him the team’s DH for 2015, moving Carter over to first base. Carter struggled mightily to start the season; he had one hit in 24 at-bats over his first seven games. He was able to put together seven-game hit streak toward the end of the month, but finished April hitting .160/.267/.253 with just two home runs, six RBIs, and 31 strikeouts in only 75 at-bats.
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Carter had a .333 OBP over May and June and would scatter 12 home runs across the two months, but continued to pile up strikeouts night in and night out. Over those 56 games, there were only seven games when Carter didn’t strike out.
The team stuck with Carter through his early struggles and waited for him to turn the corner. He started July heading into the All-Star break with only two hits in 28 at-bats, and the team was forced to look for other options. After Lowrie’s return in late July, Carter and Luis Valbuena platooned at first base for most of the second half. Carter’s playing time in August was cut down, and he only had 11 starts and 41 at-bats on the month.
Carter made only two appearances through the halfway mark of September – once as a pinch hitter and defensive replacement and also a start at first base where he was pulled in the seventh inning.
By Sept. 15, Carter had not played in any of the team’s previous six games, but got a start at first base and played his first full game since late August. He would play in five straight games, getting a hit in all but one game – a pinch-hit at-bat.
From Sept. 22 through the end of the season, Carter played in all but one of the team’s final 11 games and actually carried the team offensively: .367/.424.967, 5 HRs, three 2Bs, 9 RBIs.
Carter’s late season emergence earned him a start at first base in every Astros postseason game. He walked in all three of his plate appearances in the Wild Card game against the New York Yankees before being replaced in the seventh inning.
In the ALDS, Carter had a hit in four at-bats in each of the first two games. Game 3 was the best game of Carter’s short postseason career. He singled in his first at-bat off of Edinson Volquez but was thrown out trying to reach second base. Carter hit a shot to left field again in his next at-bat against Volquez and this time reached second and scored on a Jason Castro single. With the Astros ahead 3-1 in the bottom of the seventh, Carter put the finishing touch on a great afternoon of baseball and crushed the first pitch he saw against Danny Duffy over the Crawford Boxes. Carter would go hitless in the team’s last two games.
Carter finished the 2015 season hitting .199/.307/.427 with 24 home runs, 17 doubles, 64 RBIs, and 151 strikeouts in 460 plate appearances.
More Houston Astros Season Recaps:
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- Tony Sipp
- Jonathan Villar
- Preston Tucker
- Mike Fiers
- Hank Conger
- Chad Qualls
- Jon Singleton
- Joe Thatcher
- Marwin Gonzalez
- Josh Fields
- Jake Marisnick
- Pat Neshek
- Jed Lowrie
- Luis Valbuena
- Scott Feldman
- Evan Gattis
- Will Harris
- Luke Gregerson
What to expect in 2016
When Carter makes contact, good things happen; it’s just that the contact does not happen often enough. There is a jam in the line-up with two similar hitters like him and Gattis. The team has the option to non-tender either of them, but Carter is the more likely of the two. According to MLBTradeRumors.com, he is projected to make over $2 million more than Gattis in arbitration.
The team has until Dec. 2 to decide on Carter. If the team senses that there is more talent in the system to replace Carter at first base, then the team may look to spend their money elsewhere. He did just enough at the end of the season to make baseball fans wonder if he can put together a full season of power hitting. If the team does decide to move on, expect A.J. Reed to be a Houston Astro by the end of June.