Mike Carp

Dave · September 1, 2009 at 9:59 am · Filed Under Mariners 

With rosters expanding today, the M’s are widely expected to bring Mike Carp up from Tacoma and give him some playing time at first base in Russ Branyan’s absence. Because of Carp’s strong spring and beginning to the year in Triple-A, he got a lot of attention as the organization’s first baseman of the future, and we even got to see him get a few hacks in the big leagues during the summer. I’d imagine most fans have a pretty positive impression of Carp’s abilities – perhaps too positive, in fact.

Let’s start with the facts – Carp is a 23-year-old with a good approach at the plate but average power at best, and he’s not a particularly good athlete or defender. We like on base percentage as much as anyone, but his overall package of physical skills isn’t that exciting. Power isn’t absolutely necessary to be a good player, as guys like Sean Casey and Mark Grace had nice careers with the kind of gap power that Carp has demonstrated, but they were really good defensive players with extraordinary hand-eye coordination. That’s not Carp.

For his minor league career, he’s struck out in about 20% of his plate appearances. Part of that is because he’s willing to work counts and lay off marginal pitches on the fringes of the strike zone, but a bigger part is that his swing isn’t conducive to covering the entire plate. He doesn’t lack big time power because he’s got a level swing that is spraying line drives all over the field – he lacks big time power because he doesn’t have a particularly quick bat.

Even as a guy who will walk regularly, you have to either make a lot of contact or hit for power to be a good hitter. Carp doesn’t really excel at either. His biggest strength at the plate is his pitch recognition, but as a first baseman, he’s going to have to do more than draw walks to earn his spot in the line-up.

Carp is kind of in the Adam LaRoche model of first base prospects, offering enough skills to suggest he’ll have a big league career but lacking some key components to be the kind of guy you want to build around. He’s had some decent years, but for his career, he’s averaged about +1.5 wins per season, a bit below average for a major league regular.

That’s kind of what you should expect from Carp over the next five or six years. .270/.350/.440 with below average defense at first base makes him a major league player, but not a guy that should be counted on as a big part of the franchise’s future. If he gets hot and tears the cover off the ball in September, that will be nice to help the team win some games down the stretch, but don’t go penciling him in for a spot on the team next year just yet. The M’s need to get more production from their 1B/DH combo next year, and Carp probably isn’t the answer.


57 Responses to “Mike Carp”

  1. mw3 on September 1st, 2009 6:16 pm

    It is interesting how so many commenters are just penciling Branyan into next years lineup. First, he is a free agent and will be looking to cash in on a career year. Second and maybe more importantly there is less than a fifty percent chance Branyan is ever the same player he was before the herniated disk. Thousands of workers a year become fully disabled and unable to do manual labor type work because of herniated disks. These sorts of manual labor jobs usually don’t involve anything as violent as swinging a bat yet the injured are never able to fully function again. Perhaps a golfer with this sort of injury can explain to the masses how difficult swinging a golf club becomes after this type of injury.

    In summation, counting on Branyan to be the type of player the M’s need next year is very similar to counting on Carp. Maybe even riskier.

  2. Slurve on September 1st, 2009 7:00 pm

    No. Wherever you got this crazy idea that Raben has 80 power, lose it.

    Whoa… Guess his power was greatly exaggerated then… So who does he compare to then?

  3. Adam B. on September 1st, 2009 8:24 pm

    mw3 said:

    “It is interesting how so many commenters are just penciling Branyan into next years lineup.”

    Well, it’s certainly no given, but it could very well be likely.

    I’ll state my case.

    1. He’s fills a Mariners need for a 1B/DH with middle of the order offensive potential.

    2. He’s greatful to the Mariners for giving him his first real opportunity to play and by all reports would love to come back.

    3. He isn’t going to make much in free agency.

    He’ll be competing with guys like Jim Thome, Bobby Abreu, Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, Carlos Delgado, Vladimir Guerrero, Nick Johnson, Nomar Garciaparra, Adam LaRoche… Suffice to say the list of “DH/1B” free agents is not a short one, and there aren’t that many starting jobs available, or many teams that would take him over more established bats.

    I’d say short of this back-injury being career ending, there’s probably an 80% chance Branyan is back in the blue and teal for at least one more year.

  4. SonOfZavaras on September 1st, 2009 8:45 pm

    Hey Slurve, FWIW….I was of the mind that Raben has 60-65 power on a 20-to-80 scale- but that’s his ceiling, not where he is right now.

    A comparable player that I can think of- if all current projections of his abilities round off and become true, and he makes no gigantic strides defensively- would probably be Jeff Conine.

    With a little more power and a little less defense. Conine was no great shakes at first, but he never embarrassed, either.

    Some thoughts on Branyan/Carp: There’s a real possibility that Branyan simply won’t come back. Herniated disks- like many back-related injuries- are really tricky things, and they have a way of flaring up and never disappearing completely.

    I’d hate to see this happen, but I think that Zduriencik had best have a plan that calls for him not having Branyan on the team next year.

    If that winds up being the case, I hope we wind up with Nick Johnson and/or Gregg Zaun as free agents. I’ve had them earmarked as players I want to see wearing an M’s uniform for years.

    But with only about $17-18 million to spend, well…tough to swing that and a #2 starter as well.

    As far as Mike Carp goes, I like the idea of him being on our bench in the long run. But, it’s tough to overlook the fact that one transposition of his last name, and you’ve got a common slang word for excrement.

    If he’s a starter for us, I’m always gonna be pining for us to find someone else.

    And waiting with bated breath for a Richard Poythress, Jharmidy DeJesus or somebody else who’s likely to be better.

  5. Donovan on September 1st, 2009 9:20 pm


    With respect to the Adam LaRoche comparison, I’m no scout but I think you may well be underselling Carp.

    In his age 22 season, Carp has hit .818 OPS/.175 ISO in his first exposure to AAA.

    LaRoche’s age 22 season was in AA (not AAA) where he hit .773 OPS/.121 ISO.

    I found it interesting to compare Carp to the minor league performances of other 1B currently in the majors.

    Youkilis — age 25 season — AAA — .800 OPS/.152 ISO

    K. Morales — age 23 season — AAA — .878 OPS/.200 ISO

    Derek Lee — age 25 season — AAA — .778 OPS/.145 ISO

    Adrian Gonzalez — age 22 season — AAA — .823 OPS/.153 ISO

    It may be coincidence, but Carp’s season compares well to the above All-Stars. Whether Carp is the best option next year is I agree debatable, but the Mariners may very well have much more of an asset here in the long-run than you’re giving them credit for.

  6. marc w on September 1st, 2009 10:51 pm


    I like Carp plenty well – maybe too well if Dave’s right that his swing won’t allow him to grow into more HR power. The problem with these comparisons is that most of these guys showed huge power/contact/whatever earlier. You can’t just pick and choose the guys worst MiLB performance. I can make Carp look average by taking the same guys in AA:

    Derrek Lee .280/.360/.570 (34 HRs at age 20!)
    Youk .327/.487/.465
    Morales .306/.349/.530
    Gonzalez .266/.344/.437 (not great, but he was 20)

    Yes, these guys looked better in their first taste of AAA, but these guys showed MLB skills in AA, where Carp stumbled initially in AA, then had a nice rebound last year. I don’t think Carp’s bad because of this, but looking at the MiLB record in total shows that all four of these guys were far, far better prospects than Carp.

  7. bongo on September 2nd, 2009 10:51 am

    With respect to the Mariner’s first base prospects:

    1. Brad Nelson is more suited to DH than 1B.
    2. Shelton has had a better season in Tacoma than Carp: .310/.391/.505 vs. Carp’s .271/.372/.446
    3. LaHair is not a competent outfielder, and probably has no future in the organization.

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