Star rookie Carter focused on growth, winning

February 18th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Kennedi Landry's Rangers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Every player has their own “welcome to the big leagues” type of moment. has a couple.

“Probably [Justin] Verlander’s fastball,” he said. “Or maybe [Tyler] Glasnow’s fastball. Or his slider. Anyway, there's definitely several. Just definitely some guys had some pitches and it was like ‘Holy smokes, what was that?’ There were definitely a lot of guys where you kind of have to take a step back and calm down a little bit facing a Hall of Famer. But it is what it is.”

Despite those moments, Carter fared well enough. In fact, he did better than just well enough. Originally called up on Sept. 8 when Adolis García landed on the injured list, Carter produced consistently enough to remain in the lineup when the All-Star returned.

Carter hit .306 with a 1.058 OPS in just 23 regular-season games and started every game of the Rangers’ World Series run. He ultimately finished with 75 plate appearances in the regular season, and 72 in the postseason.

“It doesn’t feel like he's a rookie, if you guys look at the impact he made on this club,” said manager Bruce Bochy. “So you kind of forget that he's still a rookie. With the success that he had, he's not carrying himself like a rookie, I promise you that.”

Even so, Carter jokingly admits that he’s not a guy with a lot of swagger.

So despite being one of the top prospects in all of baseball, the frontrunner for 2024 American League Rookie of the Year and a World Series champion at the age of 21, Carter doesn’t really feel all that different coming into big league Spring Training this year.

“I think the difference this year is that I have a relationship with a lot of people here,” Carter said. “It's a little bit more comfortable than just walking in last year, and looking around like ‘Oh my gosh look at all these big leaguers.’ Now it's like they're my buddies, I guess, so it's definitely a better feeling.”

If there’s one thing to nitpick about Carter’s performance in 2023, it’s his stats against left-handed pitching.

  • 0-for-10 with a walk against lefties in the regular season
  • 1-for-8 with a walk in the postseason
  • A .243/.338/.257 slash line against lefties in 70 at-bats in the Minors

Carter said he’s not worried about the lack of at-bats against lefties in particular. Because he rarely saw quality lefties in the Minors, he didn’t often start if an opposing team had a left-handed starting pitcher, even if he made an appearance later in the game.

“You get called up and the team has somebody like Robbie Grossman, who is an unbelievable hitter against lefties,” Carter said. “It was just mentally one of those things, like, how do I take this? Everybody around me is saying I can't do that, so how do I respond to this? For me in my mind, I know I can do it.”

Despite what the media says -- he pointed (respectfully) to the scrum with a chuckle -- Carter believes his numbers against left-handed pitchers is something that will come with time and reps more than anything.

“Good lefties in the Minors don’t exist, they’re all in the big leagues,” he said, only partly joking.

“I think the numbers aside -- take this for what it's worth -- I felt fine against them,” Carter added. “I was in the box like, ‘I can do this.’ What, are you going to take 10 at-bats and say that you can't can't do something? I felt good in the box. I really did. It's just one of those things that I hope to get consistent this year. I think consistently seeing it every day is just gonna make me better. I'm really excited to prove to you all that I can do that.”

Rangers offensive coordinator Donnie Ecker emphasized that the staff isn’t worried about Carter facing lefties going into the 2024 season. They recognize that facing more left-handed pitching is just the natural progression of his player development at the early stages of his career, and they’re confident the splits will even themselves out.

Even as Carter enters camp looking to improve his own game, Rookie of the Year and any other personal accolades are not at the forefront of his mind. But he admits it’s getting hard to ignore sometimes.

“I definitely try not to think about it though, because that's not what it's about,” Carter said. “You know, we're here to win. So that's the whole goal. Now you’ve gotta play good to win, so if that comes along with it, that's icing on the cake.”