Veteran Slugger Chris Carter Has Abandoned His All-or-Nothing Approach with Angels

By Hoornstra, J. P. | Daily News (Los Angeles, CA), March 6, 2018 | Go to article overview

Veteran Slugger Chris Carter Has Abandoned His All-or-Nothing Approach with Angels


Hoornstra, J. P., Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)


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The Angels’ Chris Carter poses during the annual Spring Training Photo Day at Tempe Diablo Stadium in Tempe on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register/SCNG)

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After studying video of his swing during the offseason, slugger Chris Carter concluded he needed to be ‘hitting through balls more, so I’m not pulling off them as much.’ The early returns during Angels spring training have been positive, with hard-contact line drives to all fields. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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TEMPE, Ariz. — Somewhere along the way, Chris Carter picked up the nickname “Sleepy.” It’s easy to see why.

As he chatted with teammates Monday in the Angels’ clubhouse, Carter draped his 6-foot-4, 245-pound frame over a folding chair at an angle so low, he appeared to be reclining in a La-Z-Boy. His eyes possess a natural droop. He looked ready for a nap.

“He’s always so relaxed, so comfortable,” teammate Martin Maldonado said. “He barely gets mad, barely laughs.”

It would be easy to sleep on Carter’s role with the Angels. He is blocked at first base by Albert Pujols and Luis Valbuena, both of whom are on the 40-man roster. Carter is a non-roster invitee to the Angels’ major league camp, but he’s opened eyes in a short time.

After a 12-month cascade that saw Carter go from the National League home run leader to an afterthought in a crowded free-agent market, the 31-year-old veteran realized he had to shake things up. He looked at video of his swing over the winter. He didn’t like what he saw, especially on the follow-through. Carter concluded he needed to be “hitting through balls more, so I’m not pulling off them as much.”

The early returns must be taken with a grain of salt – true for anyone after 10 Cactus League games. Facing a mix of mostly major-league pitchers, Carter has five hits and three strikeouts in 14 at-bats. One of the hits was a home run. It’s a small sample, but an unusual one for someone with the profile of an all-or-nothing slugger.

Sunday’s game against the Colorado Rockies was instructive. In his first at-bat, Carter doubled to left field against Jon Gray. In his next at-bat, he roped a hard line drive to right field against Scott Oberg for a single. That’s two major-league pitchers and two major-league hits, each to a different section of the outfield.

Maldonado, who played with Carter in Milwaukee in 2016, barely recognized Carter’s new approach.

“He looks way different now,” Maldonado said. “He looks way better. He’s making more contact, hitting more line drives. He has unbelievable power. He doesn’t have to try to hit homers. He can be thinking line drives.”

If Carter’s transformation holds, it would be nothing short of remarkable. A total of 203 players have at least 2,500 plate appearances this decade. Carter ranks 203rd – dead last – with a 64.7 percent contact rate.

The Brewers could live with Carter’s 206 strikeouts in 2016. He played 160 games and was a 1-win player according to FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference. His traditional stats (41 homers and 94 RBIs) set career highs.

Yet Milwaukee designated Carter for assignment after the season, when he was eligible for arbitration and figured to see his $2.5 million salary multiply. The move came as a shock. Carter remained a free agent into February of 2017. …

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