If Matt Carson hits a home run at Target Field this season, I hope the Twins fan who catches it throws the ball back.
That would help set straight a minor injustice that Carson suffered a couple years ago. As a September callup in 2009, Carson hit his first MLB homer off former Twins pitcher Eddie Guardado in Oakland. Instead of giving the ball to Carson, or trading it for some other memorabilia, the fan (who apparently doesn’t know much about the concepts of supply and demand) demanded $10,000 for it. Carson was a recent callup, not a rich All Star, so he couldn’t afford to shell out the five digit sum.
A quick flashback in case that reference is too obscure: back in the early 90’s, Brito was powerful outfielder with a swing first, ask questions later approach at the plate. Despite eight years of 20+ homer totals in the Twins minor league system, Brito earned only three lightening-quick stints to the Majors. This was partly because the Twins outfield was already occupied by guys like Kirby Puckett, Dan Gladden, and Shane Mack. But it probably also had something to do with Brito’s perenially low on-base percentage and high strikeout totals.
Like Brito, Carson can smack the ball around pretty hard. Last season in 495 AAA plate appearances between the A’s and Rays, he slammed 24 homers and 41 doubles, racking up a slugging percentage of .533. It wasn’t a fluke, either. His career AAA stat line is .280/.343/.515. But Carson is similar to Brito in another less pleasant way, in that he has never been given an extended opportunity to prove himself in the Major Leagues, thanks to his penchant for the punch out. Carson has a career 865/293 strikeout to walk ratio, and he has whiffed 100 or more times in four separate seasons.
But the power was intriguing enough for the Twins to sign Carson to a minor league deal. The 30 year old will don jersey number 79 in Fort Myers this spring as he battles it out with the rest of the Twins’ relatively deep crop of outfield prospects. Given his age and the already crowded pool of players (Josh Willingham, Denard Span, Ben Revere, Joe Benson, Rene Tosoni, Trevor Plouffe) in the outfield, it would take something of a miracle for Carson to win a slot with the team this spring. But his bat should be a big boost to the Rochester Red Wings, and if injuries take their toll on the Twins again, Carson might be an option as a replacement this summer. It helps that Carson is a righty with power, something the Twins always seem to lack.
And hey, there’s always a chance that Carson could be a big surprise. Sam Fuld was a 29 year old who had barely cracked the Majors last year, but he went on to be a key starter for the Tampa outfield in 2011.
Carson was originally drafted by the Yankees in the fifth round of the 2002 draft. His pre-pro career was pretty impressive. Not only did he star at BYU for three years, he showed off some brains as well by majoring in Mechanical Engineering. He demonstrated his athletic versatility as a high schooler when he made the “All San Andreas League” team in water polo. No word on whether the aquatic experience helped him hit the curveball, but Carson held his own in the Yankee organization up through AA, when his numbers stalled a bit. He signed with the A’s as a minor league free agent in 2009 and made a total of 105 PAs at the Major League level. Last August, the Rays picked him up, but they let him leave as a free agent after the year.
This is the fifth in Puckett’s Pond’s series profiling all 25 of the Twins’ non-roster invitees. If you missed the first four, you can find them here.