A new feature in this and future scouting reports will be a report from a Major League scout. This high ranking "Veteran Scout", as he will be known, has been around professional baseball for a very long time and has a long and distinguished list of hitters and pitchers he has scouted and personally worked with.
Veteran Scout's Take on Carter
He had a low (below 50) OFP (overall future potential) coming out of HS. A 50 OFP would predict an average everyday player in the ML's. He signed out of HS for $105,000 and was labeled by most scouts as lazy and more of a draft-n-follow type player. A 3b in HS, he signed because he got 6 figures and because his academic situation wasn't going to work with a D1 scholarship. That's why he went in 15th round.
Obviously he profiles as a 1b with the huge power potential but he may set new records for strikeouts that even Adam Dunn can't live up to. He is a dead red bat. He can handle the fastball and even some mistakes with other offerings but they have to be up. Sure he has a good hand pivot and a soft subtle approach but he shifts and lunges to the front side creating issue's with pitchers who know how to change speeds and locate.
He would be much more inviting as a player if he were a left handed bat so he didn't have to deal with all the RH sliders. He will have to show that he can hit the long ball consistently at the ML level and should be given an opportunity to do that. But if he doesn't put up the long ball then he will be trade bait and a journeyman until he either figures it out or runs out of chances with the remaining clubs who he hasn't played for yet.
A lot of people and scouts would label him as streaky...I'm not in that category as much as most. The reason being is that when he runs in to a few days of sub-par minor league pitching he does well and when he runs into potential major league pitching he doesn't. So sure he is streaky but its all based on who he is facing on the mound. That tells me he that he'd be better off if he were a left handed hitter.
Veteran Scout is not alone in thinking Carter needs some work going forward, as he actually touched on the areas of improvement I was going to illustrate.
Chris Carter has put up huge power numbers at each minor league stop in his career. Not to be confused with the Red Sox farmhand of the same name, this Chris Carter has plus-plus power and can show it at any moment. While he has made some adjustments from 2008 to 2009, that isn't to say Carter doesn't need more refining before he'll be able to fully unleash his fury on Major League pitching.
Carter starts in a slightly open stance with a bit of weight on his front leg. He sways back toward the catcher to load his rear quad, then softly strides back to a neutral foot plant position. This type of load is a momentum-and-rhythm move. Carter has soft actions throughout his swing and gets a full weight shift forward.
He has a very short stride and lands on his front toe before dropping his heal to fire his rear hip.
Carter's upper body has actions just as soft and mild-mannered as his lower body. For his load, he applies pressure to the bat handle with his top hand as his hands go back. This "Tip N' Rip" move causes his barrel to "split his helmet" or be put into a good position to maintain a tight arc into the hitting zone. A "Tip N' Rip" movement gives the barrel a running start and creates early bat speed. This allows the bat to reach max velocity earlier in the swing, enabling a hitter to wait longer and hit for more power.
Carter's swing is not long, and he knows that he doesn't need to swing hard to do damage given his size and strength. He's very smooth through the zone; just has to make contact for the ball to travel a long, long way. Carter is very tall in his set-up and can do great damage to pitches up in the zone. Pitches down and way, especially good sliders, are his biggest weakness.
Improving the Lower Body
With Carter's soft-front-side actions, that area does not need to be improved. What does need to be improved is where his weight starts and ends up before he launches. Carter's sway-back rear leg load is very inefficient and causes him to get onto his front side too early. When it comes time to launch his swing, his weight has already shifted to his front side, leaving him vulnerable to good off-speed pitches down and away. Carter falls into the "early shifter" category of minor league hitters, and most players in that category generally struggle as they move up the minor league ranks.
He could benefit from starting with more weight on his rear leg and loading his rear hip by cocking his front hip with his front knee -- similar to Derrek Lee. A more toned down kick could do the trick, given Carter's already good soft-front-side actions. I think he would benefit greatly from modeling all of his lower half movements after Lee, especially how Lee stays centered on his rear leg before launch. This would help Carter maintain his rear hip load, delay his forward momentum from leaking and keep his weight from shifting too early. Given that Carter starts in an open stance and has the framework for a front hip cock, he could very easily add this to his swing.
Carter understands how to have a full and smooth weight shift; what he has yet to understand is how to control his forward momentum. Getting out of his current two part, shift-then-swing and moving to a one-part, shift-as-you-swing move would enable him to remove the hole he has down and away.
Improving the Upper Body
Carter's path to the ball is not long but his swing is not very quick. The "Tip N' Rip" load gives his barrel a running start, but it's almost nullified because he "tips" too early. His barrel stops after he applies pressure to the handle. The barrel then has to start all over again, resulting in a slight push against hard fastballs. Manny Ramirez, Vlad Guerrero, and Gary Sheffield are the most noticeable of the "Tip N' Rippers" in the Major Leagues today, and their barrels never stop. They use every bit of their running start, something Carter does not.
If Carter would apply pressure to start his barrel load later than he currently does, his unload would be much quicker and more fluid. No longer would he have to rush to catch up against high velocities. With his new found swing quickness, Carter would then only have to resist his lower body moving forward with his hands to handle off speed pitches.
Carter does have a slightly grooved path to the ball. He is a pretty good athlete, and should be able to use his hands more to get to tough pitches. He likes the pitch up, but down is where most pitchers live. A better "sit" -- slight lowering of the center of gravity to help keep the rear hip loaded -- and better use of the hands would help him reach those tough pitches down and away. Using his top hand a bit more to initiate his upper unload could help Carter quicken his swing and use his hands better. This new quickness could also help him wait longer on the pitch before committing.
Summary of Suggestions
The three most important things for Carter to improve on are:
1) Creating and maintaining a rear hip load
2) Holding his weight back from shifting too early
3) Quickening his upper body unload with better use of the hands
Chris Carter certainly has the raw power to hit 35+ home runs a season in the Major Leagues. What remains to be seen is if he can make the necessary adjustments to cover all areas of the strike zone to handle Major League quality pitching, or if he will forever be a Five O'clock superstar. Carter has the athleticism and power to do damage in the Majors, but going forward the pitching will only get better and smarter and exploit the holes in his swing. What refinements Carter makes in the next few seasons could ultimately decide his career path of a middle-of-the-order home run masher, or a prospect who does nothing more than tantalize all who watch him with his power.