SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Evan Carter doesn’t think much about what could have, or rather should have, happened in 2020.
In the fall of 2020, Carter should have been starting his freshman season at Duke University. With the MLB Draft shortened to just five rounds due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Carter figured to be on his way to college after graduating from Elizabethton High School (Elizabethton, Tenn.).
Instead, the Rangers shocked the baseball world by selecting him in the second round at No. 50 overall. Carter wasn’t ranked on MLB Pipeline’s Top 200 Draft prospects for that season and not even Baseball America’s Top 500, but the Rangers saw something in him that fit the organization.
"He's an unbelievable kid," said Rangers senior director of amateur scouting Kip Fagg after the Draft. "We saw him last summer. We saw him in the fall. Actually, the last game I saw this spring before the pandemic, I was in Elizabethton, Tennessee. Unbelievable family. Unbelievable kid. He was the valedictorian of his high school. It's incredible. He's a five-tool player. We feel like we beat a lot of teams."
Fagg added that other clubs, specifically the Royals and Pirates, were high on Carter and there was no guarantee he would be available for the Rangers’ next pick in the third round. Assistant general manager for player development Ross Fenstermaker also said that Carter would have been on more radars if not for the pandemic.
Carter also doesn’t like to think about what could or would have happened if COVID-19 hadn’t cut his senior season short. He’s just happy to be where he is now.
"I was always a big believer in just letting your play talk for itself," Carter said. "I’m not going to go out here and say what would’ve happened. I'm just going to play and have fun and that's all I could do. I can’t say for sure [how things would have changed]. Obviously, everybody wants to play their senior season in high school, but as far as how things would have turned out, I'm just grateful for the way they did. I'm not looking back on anything now."
It quickly became apparent that the Rangers' decision to pick Carter where they did wasn't misguided. He shined at instructional league in 2020 and made his professional debut with Low-A Down East in May. He slashed .236/.438/.387 over 32 games before his potential breakthrough debut season was suddenly derailed by a lower back fracture in mid-June.
"I got hurt and that's not what you want to see," Carter said. "But there's good in everything. I believe God's got a plan for me. I learned a lot of stuff here in rehab and being around the facility throughout the season, I wouldn't have otherwise. There’s a positive to everything. ... I was always super grateful to have the team that I did have."
While his slash line doesn’t blow anybody away on the surface, Carter quickly adjusted to professional baseball. After posting just a .203 average in May, he hit .297 over 11 games in June before sustaining the back injury. He also drew 34 walks to 28 strikeouts and added 12 stolen bases in 16 attempts.
Fenstermaker noted that Carter has a good foundation as a hitter, with his control of the zone and ability to recognize pitches. At 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds, Carter is quick for his size, and when he fills out and builds strength, he’ll be in a better place at the plate going forward.
"I think he has, at his age, an elite ability to control the zone," said Carlos Cardoza, who was his manager at Low-A. "Oftentimes, that's a big-time indicator of guys that are going to hit and hit well. It was a short span, but even in that short span, I think he learned a lot. I think all the ingredients are there for him to succeed if he can stay healthy and have a great year next year."