Tag: Chris Carter

Houston Astros’ Late-Season Performance Could Be a Sign of Things to Come

There’s rebuilding projects, and then there’s the Houston Astros.  Ever since the team went to the World Series in 2005, the entire organization has been in shambles. 

Sure, they won 86 games in 2008, but that is their only time in the past eight years to win more than 80 games.  They are currently on their seventh different manager in those eight years, and their attendance has plummeted to one of the lowest in the league.

Even worse, the Astros continued to refuse to secede into full-blown rebuilding mode.  General managers Tim Purpura and Ed Wade repeatedly made questionable decisions in trades, in the draft and in offseason free agency.

Despite maintaining a higher payroll than they should have, the Astros still could not find any success.  Finally, Drayton McLane mercifully sold the team to Jim Crane, giving the franchise the opportunity for a fresh start.

Crane hired Jeff Luhnow to be his GM.  Luhnow, a Penn-educated engineer, drastically cut the Astros’ payroll and started over.  He got rid of all the team’s established players, fielding a roster of mostly minor league caliber players.  It was an admirable undertaking, but one that was slated to get worse before it got better.

After nearly three full seasons utilizing Luhnow’s new ideals in the front office, it has definitely not been easy.  The Astros blew past the 100-loss plateau in both 2012 and 2013, and they are once again one of the worst teams in the league this year.  However, there is obvious improvement regarding the on-field talent, especially recently.

In their last series, the Astros beat the A’s twice in a best-of-three series.  This comes after they took three of four games from the Rangers and also swept the Angels in a brief two-game series. 

In the past, Houston wouldn’t have even been able to compete with legitimate playoff contenders like the Athletics and Angels, much less win.  Even with the recent turmoil in the front office—Luhnow was reportedly not seeing eye to eye with manager Bo Porter before Porter’s firing—the Astros are still winning. 

Unfortunately, winning the rest of the way will not be overly beneficial to the Astros.  They are nearly mathematically eliminated from the postseason at this point, currently trailing the Mariners by 15.5 games for the second Wild Card spot, so winning will only earn them a lower draft pick in next year’s draft.

However, with Luhnow’s past success in the MLB draft, it won’t much matter what spot they get.  The Astros are already slated for the second overall selection in the 2015 draft due to their inability to sign this year’s first overall pick Brady Aiken. 

The Astros might be undermanned at the big-league level, but there is plenty of talent working its way up the minor-league ladder.  Carlos Correa headlines the plethora of highly-touted prospects in the Houston farm system, but Mark Appel, Domingo Santana and Colin Moran are also projected to be solid major leaguers

Widely thought of as one of the top three farm systems, the Astros’ future is only a few years away from reaching the big leagues.  Recent draft picks Lance McCullers Jr., Rio Ruiz, A.J. Reed, Tony Kemp and Derek Fisher are already making a name for themselves in the lower levels of the minor leagues.  Expect them to move up the ladder at an expedited rate.

Not to mention the high-upside youngsters who are already at the big-league level.  Jon Singleton, the team’s former top prospect, is working out the kinks in The Show after his June call-up.  Mike Foltynewicz has been a nice weapon out of the bullpen, as his 100 mph fastball suits him as a reliever more than a starter.

Dallas Keuchel is a homegrown pitcher, and his breakout season has him looking like a solid future starter.  The starting rotation is filled with other young arms, and they will only get better with time.  Also, they recently announced that they will be implementing a six-man rotation for the foreseeable future.  They recalled Nick Tropeano, the Astros’ No. 13 prospect, according to MLB.com, to fill that sixth slot.

They have been relatively quiet this season on the trade and free-agent market, but they did make one move at the July 31 trade deadline.  They shipped Jarred Cosart and others to the Marlins for outfielder Jake Marisnick and Colin Moran.  Moran, the sixth pick in the 2013 MLB draft, was expected to be the centerpiece of that trade, but Marisnick has been better than expected.

Always known for his outstanding defensive attributes, Marisnick has contributed with the bat so far in Houston.  He sports a .250 average during his time in Houston after hanging around the Mendoza Line in his past MLB experiences.  He has also chipped in with several timely hits for the Astros, and that kind of clutch hitting is a luxury going forward.

The organization also has a few cornerstone players who the Astros can build around if they choose.  Jose Altuve has blossomed into one of the most productive second basemen in the entire MLB.  He has always been a solid infielder, but 2014 has been the ultimate breakout season. 

Always known as a free-swinging singles hitter, Altuve has set career highs this year in hits, doubles, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and Wins Above Replacement (WAR).  There are still 20 games left to play, plenty of time for the Venezuelan second baseman to also surpass his previous career highs in both home runs and RBIs. 

Most impressive, however, has been his aggressiveness on the basepaths.  He has stolen 51 bases this year while only being caught seven times.  His 5.2 WAR ranks eighth in the American League, meaning he is one of the most valuable players in the Junior Circuit.  To put his number into context, Mike Trout’s WAR is 6.6 and Jose Bautista’s is 4.2.

The Astros might have also uncovered a gem in Chris Carter.  The powerful right-handed hitter has shown his massive power on occasion in the past, but he finally put it all together this year.  His average still sits at a paltry .235, but he is finally tapping into his prolific home run potential.  He is currently second in the American League with 36 home runs and has driven in 85 runners, many of them coming late in close games. 

I’m not sure if he is in the Astros’ long-term plans because of his age and propensity to strike out, but he is an excellent placeholder even if the Astros have another first baseman/designated hitter in mind.  Carter doesn’t bring much to the table regarding defense or baserunning, but if you’re only going to possess one of the five tools that scouts talk about, power is the one to have.

While the two aforementioned players are very good, there is one player in the organization who is in a league of his own.  Unlike Carter, outfielder George Springer is a legitimate five-tool player.  He can hit tape-measure home runs and is also very fast, giving him the unique blend of power and speed that is matched by very few. 

Springer was called up in April, and after adjusting to major league pitching, he started to rake.  He launched ten homers in May and then six in June.  The former first-round pick struck out at an alarming rate, but he has been working on that and should be able to hit for a higher average in the future.

So with the Astros’ string of moderate success, it seems they are barely even scratching the surface of their overall potential.  With all the losing, the Astros have stockpiled plenty of jewels in the draft.  It has been a drastic uphill climb, but they finally have a loaded farm system that is poised for possible greatness.

It will be interesting going forward to see what the Astros do next.  Once the first crop of prospects is in the major leagues, Luhnow will have to decide when it is the right time to become buyers instead of sellers.  When it is indeed time, the Astros will not hesitate to pull off a blockbuster trade or sign a marquee free agent. 

“If we do our jobs and get some breaks going our way and the fans start coming back,” Luhnow said in an early 2012 interview.  “We’re going to be able to push the payroll to a point where we can compete year in and year out.”

However, Luhnow knows that there must be a steady nucleus of homegrown players to make free agents work. 

“You can’t win with just free agents.  Everybody knows that.  Even the Yankees know that,” Luhnow said in that same interview.

There are still plenty of questions regarding the club’s future, including the fact that most of the prospects are largely unproven.  However, considering Luhnow’s phenomenal success rate from his time in the St. Louis Cardinals’ scouting department, the Astros are in pretty good shape.

But Lunhow’s arrogant nature has to be concerning as well.  He all but ran Porter out of town because they did not see eye to eye on all issues.  If for some reason his plan doesn’t begin to show some dividends in the near future, his seat will consistently get hotter and hotter.

The bullpen has been a massive question mark for the Astros this year as well.  Veteran closer Chad Qualls has repeatedly blown huge leads, and the rest of the relieving core has been below average at best.  Tony Sipp is a decent left-handed specialist, but after that it gets shaky.  Foltynewicz will eventually be a valuable weapon out of the pen, but in the interim, the Astros are going to lose a lot of leads late in games unless they specifically address that area.

All in all, the Astros have arguably the most long-term potential of any organization in the league.  Still, their future success is solely dependent on how fast the prospects progress.  Once they start producing at the major-league level, the front office can explore other avenues to solidify the roster. 

2015 is not going to be the year when they are legitimate contenders, but I think by 2016 or 2017 they will be one of the premier teams in the American League.  Prospects are incredibly tough to gauge, but the Astros have stored up enough of them that at least a few of them will become stars.

If that happens, all of the losing will be worth it.  Hopefully a few winning seasons will bring more spectators to Minute Maid Park, and they can build a loyal fanbase that will support them in the coming years.

The American League West has developed into one of the toughest divisions in all of baseball, but if the Astros’ prized prospects become as good as most scouts think they can, Houston’s ceiling is nearly unlimited.

They are a team of the future, and if Sports Illustrated’s recent proclamation that the Astros will win the 2017 World Series is any indication, that future is very, very bright.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Oakland Athletics’ Biggest Offensive Weapons Post All-Star Break

As the 2012 MLB season trickles down to the final stretch, a handful of teams are seeking playoff berths, while others seek vacation destinations following game 162. 

For the first time since 2006, the Oakland Athletics are putting their postseason paradises on hold. 

Oakland’s midseason surge peaked in July during the 19-5 stint and has yet to fully subside. 

Boasting a 31-14 record since the All-Star Break break, Bob Melvin’s Athletics have patched up their 2012 season quilt with variations of miscellaneous fabrics—and boy, is it warm. 

Following the series-opening 20-2 demolition of the Boston Red Sox, the A’s preserve the top spot in the AL wild card race in front of the Baltimore Orioles on the shoulders of these second-half standouts. 

Begin Slideshow

Rangers vs. A’s: Brandon Inge Error Sparks 5-Run Rally, Texas Tops Oakland Again

Ahead 2-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning, Tom Milone appeared to have an easy first out on a Nelson Cruz grounder to third. Instead, it became the start of a five-run fifth inning as Brandon Inge could not make a play on the ball.

The Rangers would ultimately score two runs on Ian Kinsler’s single, and then the big moment was Josh Hamilton’s 23rd home run, making the score 6-2. Texas would go on to win 7-2, now one game away from a four-game sweep in the series. 

The A’s continued to see promise from Chris Carter, who went 2-for-4, including his second home run in as many games. Inge knocked in the team’s only other run with a single in the fourth, scoring Carter to make it 2-1. But the A’s did not play their best, committing three errors overall and going 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

Milone took the loss to drop his record to 8-6 on the year. Of the six runs he allowed, only one was earned, a solo home run to Adrian Beltre in the second inning. Brian Fuentes continued to struggle, allowing the final run of the game in seventh inning while again throwing more balls (16) than strikes (15).



Chris Carter. Despite an error at first, it appears as though Carter may be earning a chance to play much more in 2012. As he finally translates that power to the big-league level, it will be interesting to see how he adjusts for the duration of his stint in Oakland. To see him go opposite field for a home run was definitely encouraging.



Brandon Inge. The good thing is he came through with a good at-bat in a run producing situation. The bad thing is his error basically started the A’s implosion in the fifth inning. That is now five errors for Inge on the season, which for him has been all of 49 games. A little too frequent in that department.



Brian Fuentes. It is to the point where the dreaded tag of “gas can” applies to Brian Fuentes. He has no business pitching for the A’s at this point, and only the albatross of his contract keeps him on the big league level. He has no control, not much velocity and a propensity for home runs. Other than that, he’s doing fantastic.

Sunday, the A’s will try to avoid a sweep as Travis Blackley will face of with Texas phenom Yu Darvish. First pitch is set for 4:05 p.m.  

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Oakland Athletics: What Is Chris Carter’s Future with the A’s?

On Friday, the Oakland Athletics optioned Chris Carter to Triple-A Sacramento, ending his quest to break camp part of the A’s opening day roster.

Carter was a long shot to make the team after the offseason acquisitions of Josh Willingham, David DeJesus and Hideki Matsui. Although Carter expected the move, he entered camp determined to make it a difficult decision for the Athletics management.

Carter did not put together the spring numbers he had hoped, batting just .250 with two home runs through his Cactus League appearances.

It was Carter’s defense in the outfield that hurt him the most though. He committed three errors and made several other misplays. The A’s would like to see him improve his defense in the minors before returning to play in Oakland.

“He had a few struggles in the outfield, but he worked as hard as anyone else,” Geren told MLB.com’s Jane Lee. “I told him that this is one of the toughest places to playspring training in Arizona, a lot of sun and wind in your eyes. A lot of other guys have missed balls, so I don’t want him to get discouraged and just to work.

“I think he runs well enough, and I think he throws well enough. Those are the two components that are hard to teachrunning speed and arm strength. The other stuff can be taught.”

Carter’s demotion comes before the Bay Bridge series to allow him more innings in the outfield early on, although Geren did say that Carter will also see time playing at first base in Sacramento as well.

“Having a guy that can play two different spots gives us a better opportunity to use him, gives him better chances to create a spot for himself,” Geren said.

The A’s depth this season has left some people, myself included, wondering what Carter’s spot long term actually is?

Unless one of the A’s outfielders suffers an injury, Carter is unlikely to see significant time in the A’s outfield in 2011. In addition to Josh Willingham, Coco Crisp and David DeJesus, the A’s also have Ryan Sweeney, Conor Jackson and Hideki Matsui capable of playing in the outfield as well.

Each of the A’s starters are free agents after this season, so if Carter is capable of improving his defense, he should find himself an outfield regular beginning in 2012.

Upon being traded to Oakland, Willingham expressed his interest in a potential extension with the A’s. Crisp, a fan favorite and productive member of the A’s lineup last season after returning from the disabled list, could also be in line for a new contract to remain in Oakland beyond 2011.

The A’s have not had any negotiations with either outfielder about new contracts through spring training.

The A’s decision whether to retain their veteran outfielders or turn over the positions to their minor league prospects such as Carter (Michael Taylor and Michael Choice also should be in line for outfield positions in 2012), will be determined by their development in the A’s minor league systems over the course of the season.

Carter’s other primary position, first base, is currently being manned by Daric Barton. Carter has a more powerful bat than Barton, but Barton’s emergence as one of the leagues premiere defensive first basemen has the Athletics exploring a multi-year contract extension through 2014.

Barring any major injury, Barton will be the first baseman for the foreseeable future.

With his two primary positions in question, and the fact that Hideki Matsui is only signed to a one-year deal, some people have openly wondered if Carter could be destined to be Oakland’s next DH? Many scouts share the opinion that Carter will eventually be a designated hitter in his career.

Carter’s power numbers in the minor leagues (he’s hit 149 home runs with 507 RBIs in 673 minor league at-bats), as well as Matsui’s reputation as a slow-starter, have left open the question if perhaps Carter could fill the DH role as early as this season.

The A’s don’t want to waste Carter’s athleticism though, the primary reason that they sent him to Triple-A to get more practice in the outfield.

“Obviously his bat is his strongest part of his game, but he has to get his defense up to speed with his offense, and I’m sure he’ll continue his hard work,” added Geren. “He’s a talented guy, a good athlete.”

Chris Carter is very much still in the long-term plans of the Athletics, but his development in the outfield this season with Sacramento will have a lot to do with his eventual place on the A’s roster.

I’m sure at some point in 2011 we will see him back in green and gold, but at which position is still a mystery.


Brandon McClintock covers the Oakland Athletics and Major League Baseball for BleacherReport.com. You can follow him on twitter  @BMcClintock_BR.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

MLB 2011 Predictions: Brandon Belt and 30 Rookies to Watch in 2011

The San Francisco Giants are currently the toast of Major League Baseball.  Featuring the best rotation in baseball and coming off a World Series championship, the Giants look to become the first team since the 1999-2000 New York Yankees to win consecutive World Series.

A crucial contributor to the 2010 San Francisco Giants was NL Rookie of the Year Buster Posey, a can’t-miss prospect who made good on his potential with the Giants by becoming one of the team’s leaders both on and off the field.

In 2011, the Giants have another such player in Brandon Belt, a five-tool first baseman (how often do we say that?) who ripped up the minor leagues in his first season of pro ball and is looking to make the Giants out of spring camp.

Belt will not be the only impact rookie in the majors this season, though.  

Here we take a look at 30 rookies looking to make an impact at the major league level in 2011.

Begin Slideshow

MLB Offseason: Jeremy Hellickson and 10 Rookies Set to Star in 2011

The 2011 Major League Baseball season seems a long ways away, but it is never too early to take a glance at potential impact rookies for next season.

Jeremy Hellickson, 23, a pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays, leads a group of 10 players who are ready to make an impact on their respective teams in 2011.

Begin Slideshow

Chris Carter Says New York Mets Are Good Enough To Be in First Place

“We are better than this.”

That was the message Mets players had on Tuesday at Citi Field, as the team looked to close the gap on NL East rivals Atlanta and Philadelphia.

“I think this is a first-place team if you ask me,” Chris Carter told me. “You know what, we’ve been losing a lot of one-run ballgames, so we just need to find a way to score one or two more runs I think we’ll be good.”

The Mets are 14-22 in one-run ballgames this season, the worst in the division. By contrast, the Phillies are 18-11 in similar circumstances. Had the Mets scored just two more runs in even a quarter of those losses, they would stand just 3.5 games back right now, a much more promising figure to overturn.

In a similar vein, the Mets are 7-16 since the All-Star break, and nine of the defeats have been by either one or two runs. Heartbreaking back-to-back shutouts in San Francisco when they held the Giants to a combined three runs but lost both games and extra-inning walk-off losses in consecutive series to the Dodgers and D-Backs really set the scene for the second half of the year.

The series in LA was particularly tough for Mets fans. They outscored Joe Torre’s Dodgers 8-7 over the four games but ended up 1-3.

After sitting in first place for five games at the end of April, the team dropped to third in the division in just over a week, fourth by May 15, and dead last the following day. Yes, the season was only 38 games old, but already fans had started to panic after getting swept on the road by the Marlins.

A 5-1 homestand in early June moved them back into second behind Atlanta, and they held the spot for more than five weeks before the surging Phillies overtook them. Now, after falling back to a season-high nine games behind the NL East leader, the Mets are looking to make another run at first.

Ike Davis said: “We’ve got a good team but we’ve lost a lot of close games. I think we’re better than a third-place team for sure, but we’re still in it.

“It’s going to take a team effort. Everyone needs to pull together and we need to play solid, fundamental baseball.”

Tuesday night, the Mets showed the kind of heart and spirit they will need to show for the rest of the season. Mike Pelfrey looked like the 10-game winner from the first half of the year and his career-high 122-pitch effort really paced the Mets in their victory. His tempo was good and he out-dueled arguably the best pitcher in the league this year.

The Mets struggled somewhat at the plate against Ubaldo Jimenez as many would have expected, but they got men on base when they could and they pushed across the winning run with fundamental baseball—walks, base hits, and sacrifice flys.

Most importantly, they were strong in the field. Ike Davis made two fine stops at first base, including a fierce stab to deny Carlos Gonzalez, and Fernando Martinez layed out for a diving stretch in left field to deny Ian Stewart in the latter stages of the contest. And then there’s the bullpen. Six up, six down for Hisanori Takahashi and Francisco Rodriguez.

If it’s going to take fundamental baseball and a little bit of good luck, Tuesday’s win was just what Davis had in mind. It’s not going to be this smooth every day of the week, but the team certainly proved to detractors that they are capable of holding their own against the best in the business.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Ike Davis, Chris Carter Know New York Mets Can Challenge in NL East

The New York Mets might be 8.5 games out of first place in the National League East, but the players know that they are capable of turning the deficit around if they’re given time.

Therein lies the kicker, though. The Mets are more than two-thirds of the way through their schedule and time just isn’t something that is on their side. Still, they say, you can’t stop believing now.

 Ike Davis knows the Mets are still right in the thick of things, but he also appreciates that the club can’t continue to drop series, especially to divisional rivals like they did on their last road trip.

 “We’re trying to get something started right now,” the first baseman told me in front of the Mets dugout. “The season’s not over and we have time—not a lot, but we have some time—to put something together and see if we can rattle off a couple good streaks.”

 Although young, Davis is among those leading by example, both in the clubhouse and on the field. He took extended batting practice ahead of Tuesday’s home opener with the Colorado Rockies and he has been keeping loose in and around his teammates.

The streaky slugger also appears to be adopting a more patient approach at the plate, even if he would like to be ripping the ball to all fields a little more.

He added: “You could say I’m doing better, yes, I guess. I mean I was laying off some pitches, but I wasn’t really driving the ball. I was getting my hits and taking some walks, but I need to drive the ball.”

 Similarly, fellow Mets newcomer Chris Carter understands that the club is capable of mounting a late-season charge.

“The guys and the coaching staff know that we are still in this,” Carter said, “but we’re running out of games and we need to start playing well.”

While Davis will continue to get regular playing time at first base, Carter knows he will have to make the most of every single at-bat that comes his way.

The pinch-hitting specialist is tied for seventh in the Majors with 10 hits off the bench, while his .294 batting average as a pinch hitter is 11th in the NL. He has more pinch hits than any rookie in all of baseball in 2010, and he is fifth with five RBIs.

Carter added: “Every opportunity I get I’m happy to have and I’m happy to be here and excited for trying to make a playoff run because I really believe in this team.”

After the series with Colorado, the Mets will host the Phillies to complete their six-game homestand. Road trips to Houston and Pittsburgh follow are sandwiched between sets at home to Florida and Houston and then, if the Mets are still in contention, the run-in really begins.


Six of their next eight series are against NL East opponents, with New York facing Atlanta and Philly for a combined 13 games in 28 days. This will truly make or break their season, although games against the Marlins and Cubs won’t be easy either.

The players believe they can still challenge for the playoffs in 2010, and although they’re going to need almost everything to go their way, it could just happen.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Copyright © 1996-2010 Kuzul. All rights reserved.
iDream theme by Templates Next | Powered by WordPress