Still just 18 years old, Evan Carter is making nice strides — fast ones — in his first taste of professional baseball.
Carter has demonstrated a base-stealing prowess that wasn’t a central part of his profile as a standout at Elizabethton High School just one year ago.
The leadoff batter for the Down East Wood Ducks — the Low-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers, located in Kinston, North Carolina — Carter has been successful in seven of his eight stolen-base attempts in 16 games for a team that stood in first place with a record of 11-5 heading into Saturday’s game.
“I think I’ve gotten a whole lot faster since high school,” Carter said in a phone interview Saturday morning. “I think I’m just growing into my body more. I guess I’m a lot stronger, but I think I’m just getting older and growing into myself.”
MAKING AN IMPACT
At 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds, the center fielder is a prized member of the Rangers’ organization. The Dallas Morning News published a story in March with a headline reading, “Criticized pick Evan Carter off to highly impressive start.”
The Rangers chose Carter last year with their second-round pick (No. 50 overall), surprising baseball analysts around the country. But Carter was a known commodity, already committed to play at Duke University. He gave up the college gig and signed a $1.25 million bonus to play ball for the Rangers.
Losing the 2020 high school season to COVID-19 didn’t hurt Carter because the Rangers saw all they needed to see. When the pandemic relented, they sent him to the Arizona League in the fall and he batted .304 with as many walks (17) as strikeouts.
“It went well,” Carter said. “It was a really fun time, getting to know new coaches and players and getting familiar with the organization and spring training complex.”
FIRST BIG FLY
Carter had a nice moment on May 18. He entered the game against the Charleston RiverDogs in a 1-for-16 funk, but it took one pitch to turn things around.
Catching up with a fastball, Carter enjoyed his first professional home run with a shot over the right field fence.
“It was off a left-hander (Jose Lopez),” Carter said. “I was trying to be aggressive early. It was a super cool experience, something I will never forget.”
Carter said he doesn’t live by the numbers.
“I don’t like to look at stats,” he said. “Some (players) do. You could be having a tough time at the plate, as far as stats, but you could be helping the team in other areas. I just try to help the team in whatever way I can.”
For the record, Carter was batting .245 going in to Saturday’s game at Charleston. He had one homer, four doubles and three RBIs. With 14 walks and being hit by pitch three times, Carter’s on-base percentage is an impressive .439.
JUST A KID
Carter is the youngest player on the Wood Ducks’ roster, but he said it’s no big deal.
“The way I look at it, age doesn’t really matter any more,” he said. “You try to move up through levels against guys who are five-, six-, seven-years older. Everybody is competing against everybody.”
Carter will turn 19 in August.
Carter has the luxury of playing close enough to home that his family can watch some of his games. Kinston is about a five-hour drive from Elizabethton, and the division rival Kannapolis Cannon Ballers are located less than three hours away.
“(My family) has been coming down on the weekends,” Carter said. “It has been really nice to get to see them again.”
The Wood Ducks have a six-game series at Kannapolis scheduled for Aug. 17-22.