The final week of Spring Training is so brimming with predictions, no one can possibly remember to go back and check them all come October. So why not swing for the fences and make a wild one?Brewers first baseman Chris Carter will hit 40 home runs this season.That was the
The final week of Spring Training is so brimming with predictions, no one can possibly remember to go back and check them all come October. So why not swing for the fences and make a wild one?
Brewers first baseman Chris Carter will hit 40 home runs this season.
That was the personal goal proposed last fall by left fielder Khris Davis, but he was traded to the A's just before pitchers and catchers reported to Maryvale Baseball Park. So we'll pass it to Carter, even though the slugging first baseman is coming off a down year with the Astros in which he batted .199 and cleared the fences just 24 times -- Carter's lowest home run total of any pro season in which he topped 100 games played -- and was nontendered by Houston.
Whether or not he actually produces the eighth 40-homer season in Brewers history, Carter does have some factors working in his favor:
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1. He's come close before
Carter hit 39 home runs in the hitter-friendly Class A California League in 2008, when he was a White Sox prospect, and 34 home runs between Triple-A Sacramento and Oakland in '10 after he was traded from the White Sox organization to the D-backs to the A's. He was dealt again to the Astros in the Jed Lowrie trade just before 2013 Spring Training and hit 29 homers that season, then belted a career-best 37 in 145 games in '14 while batting everywhere from the No. 3 hole to No. 7 for an Astros team trying to emerge from a rebuilding phase.
2. He was not just a product of Minute Maid Park
Carter played home games the past three seasons at Minute Maid Park, which is huge in center field but features a short porch in left that favors pull hitters like Carter. He's hit 48 of his 109 career home runs (44 percent) there while logging 791 of his 1,736 Major League at-bats (46 percent). Carter's .453 slugging percentage at Minute Maid Park is essentially equal to his .452 career mark.
3. He doesn't have prospects over his shoulder
None of the Brewers' top 30 prospects are first basemen. At Triple-A Colorado Springs, the position will be some combination of Andy Wilkins, a power hitter with 21 Major League plate appearances, plus two former Red Sox prospects seeking bouncebacks: Will Middlebrooks and Garin Cecchini. At the big league level, the backup first basemen are outfielder Ramon Flores, an unproven player, and catchers Jonathan Lucroy and Martin Maldonado, each of whom will only man the position on occasion.
So the job is Carter's. He was general manager David Stearns' only Major League free-agent signing.
4. He looked good in Arizona
Never mind Carter's team-leading four Cactus League home runs. It was his batting practice that raised Ryan Braun's eyebrows.
"I hadn't seen a lot of him, other than highlights of his home runs on highlight shows or whatever," Braun said. "His swing is just a lot shorter and quicker than I expected it to be. His approach is really simple. Just from watching him take batting practice every day, I feel like he could put up much better numbers than he has put up in the past.
"Sometimes, those big, power guys are dead-pull hitters. There's a lot going on in their swing, a lot of movement. But his swing is really simple and easily repeatable. The ball just explodes off his bat."
Carter, for his part, wants nothing of predictions.
"My goals are more having good at-bats and making solid contact and barreling balls up," Carter said. "I've squared more balls up recently, and I think that's a good sign. My other springs have been hit or miss, but I think I've been more consistent this year in the quality of my at-bats."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast.