11 January 2017

Chris Carter is Still There for the Taking

While the Orioles bid seemingly against themselves for Mark Trumbo, there's another player available for a lot less money that could fill the same role. 30-year-old Chris Carter, formerly of the Milwaukee Brewers, is currently a free agent after the Brewers non-tendered him to avoid arbitration. Mark Trumbo, the Orioles' most recent power hitting reclamation project, is expected to get a contract somewhere in the neighborhood of 4 years and $60 million. Chris Carter was projected to get $8-10 million in arbitration this year, but MLB Trade Rumors expects him to sign a one-year deal for less than that given the availability of power bats and his incredibly streaky history.

Carter actually profiles more like Davis than Trumbo, with more extreme BB% and K% rates than Trumbo. Even in his very bad 2015, Carter posted a wRC+ of 104. Compare that to Trumbo's equally bad 2015, when he posted a wRC+ of 107.

However, Carter rebounded from his poor 2015 campaign to have a solid 2016, posting 41 home runs and a .222/.320/.457 slash line. Nothing groundbreaking by any means, but certainly worth a look if he can put up anything like that in 2017. Carter might have even had more home runs to his name if he was hitting in Camden Yards - check out his 2016 spray chart overlayed on OPACY:
Source: Baseball Savant, Statcast
Carter also made it onto the Statcast leaderboard for number of balls barreled up on, defined as "well struck balls with an expected batting average/slugging percentage of .500/1.500." He finished 2016 with 56 barrels, 8th in all of baseball and immediately trailing Mike Trout and Evan Longoria, (57 each).

Anecdotally, when a player exhibits a strong three true outcomes profile, he also has platoon splits that show he should only play when matchups are favorable. Carter has hit righties and lefties about equally, so there's no reason to think he should be anything but a full-time player for the Orioles, whether it's at DH, spelling Davis at first, or (gulp) in the outfield.

Carter should be a DH. But since the Orioles appear willing to try and hide a bad fielder with a good bat in the outfield, I should mention that Carter has 549 innings in left field and 17 in right, and he's posted roughly a -30 UZR/150 in both.

I don't put much stock into this because each of these pitchers is good enough to know where to pitch opponents, but the Red Sox' aces, David Price and Chris Sale, each through a number of pitches in the upper right portion of the zone, which is up and away for Carter:

Carter tends to hit pitches in those locations well and with authority:
Again, it's an imperfect comparison. Saying Carter would hit Sale and Price well just because of pitch location charts completely ignores pitch types, quality, and scouting reports. It's just worth noting that if Sale and Price miss, Carter could be one of the hitters that really makes them pay.

There's no fancy math or stathead secret in play here: Chris Carter is likely to give whichever team signs him the same production that the Orioles will get from Chris Davis and someone will get from Mark Trumbo. Baltimore has already sunk a lot of money into Chris Davis, and is thinking about doing the same with Trumbo. Why spend that cash on a multi-year deal for a flawed right-handed power bat (to be clear, I mean Trumbo) that will carry through what is potentially a mass exodus from Baltimore after 2017? Especially when there's potentially a very cheap one-year deal for essentially the same production sitting right in front of the team.


Roger said...

Can't Mancini provide the same kind of effective production as Carter (OPS+ of 100-110)? With Aneury Tavarez and Seth Smith in tow, what we really need is a RH Michael Bourn. Is there anyone out there that fits that profile? Please don't say Drew Stubbs because he really can't hit at all. Maybe *gasp* Christian Walker might be given a chance???

Matt Kremnitzer said...

It's possible Mancini could provide that production, but there's essentially no track record against major league pitching. You pretty much know what you're getting in Carter.

In terms of a speedster on the market who's strong against left-handed pitching, there are mostly underwhelming options.

Jon Shepherd said...

Re: Christian Walker. The bat is fringe. He is a gap power hitter with decent contact and discipline, but nothing exceptional. Walker is a kind of player who has to prove it on every level and that is difficult to do for a playoff team. His first season in left was terrible defensively and the bat was not loud. For him, his best opportunity might be to get another year of LF under his belt and make some noise later this year or next year.

Re: Mancini. He is largely an unknown and it would not be terrible for him to get a full season in Norfolk. If I wanted money for international amateur talent, then I would keep him in the fold. If I never spend money internationally, then I would probably use that to get a player who I am more confidant of his abilities.

Re: RH burners? You probably have to go the MiL route and hope to catch lightning in a bottle. Personally, I would do a headstand for Todd Glaesmann. No idea why he is still a MiL FA. Rico Noel might be interesting as a pickup. Ditto for Yorman Rodriguez and Ryan Strousberger.

Anonymous said...

If I'm Carter, I'd want a two year deal so that he'll have over 6 years of service time after his contract ends and can go to free agency instead of being forced to accept arbitration. Still, I could see him accepting a two year deal for $15M or so which would be a significant savings from Trumbo.

The problem I see is that the Os have two outfielders, Kim and Smith, whose best position is DH. I'm not sure that adding a third DH in Carter is the best idea and rather the Os should consider signing an actual corner outfielder - even if they can only afford a fourth outfielder like Bourn due to budgetary constraints. Failing that, a RH outfielder that can be used as a defensive replacement late in games (even if he's terrible against right handed pitching and only decent against left handed pitching) may be a better option.

But as you said, the Os care more about offense than defense from these positions, so Carter would fit well with their philosophy. Good article.

Anonymous said...

Adam Brett Walker II is a cheaper version of Chris Carter and although never hitting at the MLB level has crazy overall MiLB averages over an 162 game season - 35 HRs and 125 RBI over that span. He has been consistent at each level in terms of production and yes strikeouts too, but his teams have never struggled due to his faults. 4 Championships (Rk / A+ / AA / AFL) in 5 years and 80+ win seasons (a / AAA) in the years he didn't win championship. And a much better athlete than Carter and Trumbo at 6'5 230 lbs. Could be DD steal of the off season.

Jon Shepherd said...

First...team success is not very useful in assessing Walker.
Second...Carter, who we all agree is highly limited at the MLB level, actually showed decent contact skills (one year was astonishing at AA) and merely troublesome strikeout rates (25%). Walker is on another level. He has never been able to control the zone when hitting and posts miserable contact rates. In turn, he has a high 30% k rate. It would be astonishing for that package to work in the majors.
Third...Of the scouts and front office people I know, none said Walker was an organizational top 20 player. They each noted zone control issues and highly doubted that the power would be meaningful against MLB quality pitching.

Sure, the power is interesting, but there is very little to suggest that Walker (a guy who was twice DFA'd this year and almost was passed by the entire MLB) is a meaningful contributor to the MLB squad.

Jacob W Smith said...

I've been waiting to see the Orioles linked to Carter the whole offseason. He certainly seems like DD's type.

Anonymous said...

This is a no brainer, do it!!!

Anonymous said...

Christian Walker is not athletic enough for RF!

Anonymous said...

Compare Chris Davis's wrc+ in 2013 and 2015 to anything Carter has done. Saying Carter will give you what davis does is basically saying davis will have a bad year and Carter will have a good one, and it ignores baserunnung (where davis is rated as one of the best and Carter one OD the worst) and defense (same). Surprised you wrote that.

Anonymous said...

Chris Carter's career OPS: .777
Mark Trumbo's career OPS: .776

Anonymous said...

I agree that Adam Brett Walker (ABW) has shown contact issues, but what he has also shown at each level is the ability to hit HRs and drive in Runs. People have been saying that he won't hit for power at the next level since 2012. [27 A ball - 25 High A - 31 AA - & 27 AAA HRs] later - He is still producing. Odds may be against him, but he has yet to not produce. I want to see him fail to produce before I assume he won't. A minor league OPS of .796 is still .796!

Note: The same AAA league (IL) in 2016 had Mancini at .775 OPS (Norfolk) and Walker at .784 OPS (Rochester). Walker had 54 XBH while Mancini had 40 XBH. Don't get me wrong - I like Mancini, but don't sleep on Walker is all I'm saying. People often say "All or Nothing" with Walker, but leading your league in XBH means you hit more than HRs (Doubles & Triples count). Walker has done that in 3 of his 5 years in minors.

Jon Shepherd said...

You are looking for ways to appreciate Walker.

Anonymous said...

Because I truly do. I've seen him several times in various leagues including All Star games and he is a talent. Better seen than read about though. Heck - He was the MVP of his 80 win AAA team in only his first year of AAA. Can't be all bad.

Anonymous said...


What do your eyes tell you? AAAA or True Potential?

Jon Shepherd said...

For him, I analyze the numbers and then I ask my friends who are scouts and front office execs to give more gravity to my conclusion.

I value that approach. Some players can certainly elude my approach. It gets harder to also elude several eyes in different organizations at different places within those organizations. It certainly is not impossible to slip through all that, not to mention the 20 some other teams who do not think he is worth a 40 man roster slot twice in the past few months. However, you should be able to clearly see that his chances are rather low for being a successful MLB player.

Anonymous said...

Low chances - yes. No argument. But he is a guaranteed failure if not given the opportunity.

Name the last player (any level) to lead 3 consecutive levels in the minors in HRs and RBI and Total Bases and XBH (2013 thru 2015)? I find that worthy of a chance and not easily ignored. Even this year in his first AAA season - he was top 3 or 5 in each category.

Your friends are paid to predict on probabilities. Predict wrong and lose your job. I get it. Gotta go with the odds.

He's no David Ortiz, but history tells us that sometimes players are waived and picked up by 93 win (2002) franchises like the Red Sox and have long successful careers. Didn't we get Darren O'Day off waivers?

Jon Shepherd said...

Calvin Pickering without contact. Jack Cust without walks. Brandon Waring without position.

Performance scouting is not a bad thing, but you have to be cognizant of the limitations. You cannot see how advanced pitchers dominated him.

The probability of success with what we know means that it is kind of pointless to give him too much opportinity. He simply does not have the upside profile that someone like Chris Carter had as a prospect.

He would make far more sense for a terrible team who might give him a cup of coffee.