Evan Carter has such a calmness about him at barely 21 years old, and less than a month after his Rangers debut, that Texas manager Bruce Bochy wonders if the kid even realizes he’s in the big leagues.
Plus, the speedy outfielder just keeps getting on base.
“Just love the way he’s handling himself through all this,” Bochy said.
Carter certainly hasn’t been overwhelmed since jumping into the playoff chase. Called up as an injury fill-in, he hit .306 with five homers in 23 games down the stretch for the Rangers, then reached base in seven of his eight plate appearances during the AL Wild Card Series, when they swept Tampa Bay to advance in the postseason for the first time since 2011.
“I wouldn’t say it was easy,” Carter said with a wide smile, even though that is exactly how he has made it look. “There’s a lot of work and preparation and stuff … older people on the team with a lot of experience, picking their brains, and the coaching staff.”
Texas plays Game 1 of its AL Division Series on Saturday at 101-win Baltimore.
The only player to reach base more in any two-game postseason span at age 21 or younger was Freddie Lindstrom eight times for the New York Giants in the 1924 World Series. Carter matched Dylan Carlson’s seven for St. Louis in the NL Wild Card Series in 2020.
Batting ninth in a Rangers order with five All-Stars, Carter reached the first six times he went to the plate in Tampa Bay, becoming only the second player to do that in his first postseason. Jorge Soler got on his first nine plate appearances for the Chicago Cubs in the 2015 NL Division Series.
“From the moment he came up, he’s very poised and confident. He’s got a very simple approach, and he likes to stick to that,” All-Star pitcher Nathan Eovaldi said after he won Game 2 against the Rays.
Even before Carter’s first at-bat, he had an impact for Texas in Game 1. He sprinted 59 feet for a diving catch in left field to end the first inning with a runner on base.
The Rangers called up Carter for his big league debut on Sept. 8, after he had played only eight Triple-A games and 10 days after his 21st birthday. They had just put All-Star slugger and then-AL RBI leader Adolis García on the injured list.
General manager Chris Young said then that the Rangers were optimistic Carter could help now and in the future.
Well, Carter singled in his first big league at-bat and became the first player in the expansion era (since 1961) with a hit, walk, stolen base and outfield assist in his MLB debut. His on-base streak of 16 games was the longest to open a career in franchise history.
In the Wild Card Series, Carter hit a first-pitch homer, doubled twice and had three walks on full counts — making it somewhat fitting that he wears jersey No. 32. He got hit by an 81-mph sweeper on the ninth pitch of his final at-bat after fouling off four two-strike pitches.
“We joke around and say he’s our little savior,” said fellow rookie Josh Jung, the AL’s starting third baseman in this year’s All-Star Game who had three extra-base hits Wednesday.
“The impact he’s had has been incredible,” Jung said. “He’s had a quality at-bat I feel like every at-bat. He knows the strike zone really well, and his at-bat alone is pushing the pitcher’s pitch count up.”
Even with a first-pitch double in Game 1, and his two-run homer in Game 2 on which Jung scored, Carter saw 40 pitches in his eight plate appearances.
These days, it’s not unusual for rookies to make an instant impact in their first October — two of the past three AL Championship Series MVPs were rookies (Tampa Bay’s Randy Arozarena and Houston’s Jeremy Peña), and Peña also won World Series MVP. But both of those players were 25 for their memorable playoff debuts.
Jurickson Profar was 19 in the AL’s single wild-card game in 2012, making Carter the second-youngest player to appear in a playoff game for Texas. The only other Rangers rookie with a postseason homer was Mitch Moreland in Game 3 of the 2010 World Series, which they lost in five games to the Bochy-managed San Francisco Giants.
Texas took Carter in the second round (50th overall pick) of the 2020 draft after his prep senior season in Elizabethton, Tennessee, was canceled after three games because of the COVID-19 pandemic. His pro debut at Low-A in 2021 was limited to 32 games because of a stress fracture in his back.
But Carter was the Rangers’ minor league player of the year in 2022, spent mostly at Class A Hickory before a late-season promotion to help Double-A Frisco win the Texas League championship. He returned to the RoughRiders this year, then hit .353 in his limited Triple-A stint before his promotion and now an opportunity for a title at the highest level.
“Obviously, getting called up was an amazing experience for me,” Carter said. “But, you know, that moves on really quick when I get a chance to play in the playoffs like this.”
And all before he even has a chance to next season be a top AL Rookie of the Year candidate.
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