Profile: 6'3" - 180lbs - TH:R - BT:L - 2011 Age: 25
• FB4 93-94: Some lateral movement. (50-55)
• SL 83-84: Legitimate plus pitch, good depth, useful against left and right. (60-65)
• CH 85-86: Very good fade vs lefties, I think the pitch is MLB ready now. Would like to see him utilize it more. (55-60)
Drafted in the 26th round of the 2005 draft out of obscure Georgia Perimeter Community College, Carter is one of those rare low-round selections who turns himself into a solid prospect through close work with his coaches and a strong work ethic. Coming out of college he was little more than a throw-away pick, the kind of player you bring in to your Rookie-Ball club, know full well there is little chance of him sticking.
The one thing Carter did have going for him, as is the case with so many White Sox pitchers, was a live arm. When he came out of college he was a skinny kid at 6'2" 160lbs, but he was throwing 91-92 and the Sox scouts saw the potential to add a mph or two as he grew. Though he was 19 when he was drafted, he didn't make his professional debut until the 2006 season at age 20 for the White Sox Rookie Level Appalachian League team. In a league where the average age is far closer to 18 than 20.
Carter works with a high 3/4 delivery, and when he can stay on top of his fastball he can create a good downward plane. Unfortunately he doesn't do so quite consistently enough and he has a tendency to leave the pitch up in the zone where it will flatten out an become a bit too hittable. He also features a slider and changeup, both of which I like a lot. His slider gets better depth than most and it makes him very effective against lefties since he can work the pitch inside and underneath the bats of left-handers. His changeup doesn't quite have ideal velocity differential, but he does have a polished delivery with good deception, and though it doesn't fall off as well as others, it really runs away from left-handers. I'd rate as plus right now with little room left for improvement.
Carter has been pitching behind the age-curve for essentially his entire career, and realistically, his performance as a starter (pre-2010) was mediocre at best. He never blew the world away with his stuff despite generally being older than his competition. Still, the White Sox stuck with him, hoping that his arm would eventually translate in a starters role. Unfortunately, that never happened.
His performance in 2010 after making the transition to a relief role however was phenomenal. Though Carter's walk rate was higher than normal, he was also striking out far more than he had since his stint in A ball during the 2008 season. Just as important as the improved strikeout metric, scouts seemed impressed with how much more life his off-speed offerings had out of the bullpen.
After finishing the AA season, the White Sox allowed him to pitch for the United States in the Pan-Am games where he served as the teams closer, working four one-hit innings. And as if that weren't enough, he followed that up with a strong performance in the Arizona Fall League. Overall, the 2010 could only be described as an unmitigated success and the White Sox are undoubtedly hopeful for his future.
Carter is old for his level and I've seen a lot of folks who are saying he's more setup man than closer, but I'm not sold. His fastball does make him more fly-ball prone (and therefor homerun prone) than ideal, and his command is more good than great. But he brings three solid offerings, which is one more than most relievers and I'm convinced his stuff could translate against left-handers right now.
He'll open the 2011 season as AAA Charlotte's closer, and there are area's he can still improve. For one, you'd like to see him stay on top of his fastball more consistently and use his good release height to create better downhill plane and better deception. I'd also like to see if he can refine his slider - or even find a secondary grip that would give it more lateral bite. The pitches depth makes it really hard on lefties but it's not as strong vs right handers. Other than that, I think he's a solid prospect who's downside would be as a solid 7th inning arm, and unlike some others, I see closer potential with refinement to his stuff vs righties.
Corey Ettinger is a proud contributor to both 612Sports.net and 312Sports.com. He also provides extensive analysis of the American League Central Division at his own blog AL Central In Focus.