The Astros need a lot of things; However, both casual fans and the diehard followers of Astros baseball can likely agree they need one in particular- power hitting. The addition to Chris Carter helps, Jonathan Singleton and George Springer could provide some pop down the road and the Martinii may have some untapped potential, but the squad still projects as one of the league's more punchless teams in 2013. But, they have the benefit of the first slot in the waiver order, and a power bat just hit the wire- the Mariners' Mike Carp. What could Carp bring to the Astros? Let's take a look.
A California high school star, Carp was drafted by the Mets in the 9th round of the 2004 draft and signed with the team. He wasn't known as a great athlete, but he had natural power and showed it instantly in the minors. After putting up 19 home runs in just over 300 at bats in his first taste of full season ball in 2005, Carp really put himself on the map as a sleeper as he moved to the Florida State League, which is known for being tough on power, and posted a .290/.382/.449 slash line with 16 home runs in 565 plate appearance, with 18.6% and 9.0% K and BB rates. However, his transition to the high minors took more time. As a 21 year old in AA, his strikeout and walk rates held steady but he hit just .251/.337/.387 with 11 bombs in 412 plate appearances despite his strikeouts and walks holding steady, and in 2008 the Mets assigned him to repeat AA. Taking his second crack at the league, Carp regained his stroke and posted a stellar .299/.403/.471 slash, cracking 15 dingers and walking at a stellar 14.0% walk rate vs. just striking out just 15.5% of the time.
The offseason after his 2008 bounceback, the Mariners snagged him from the Mets in the JJ Putz/Jason Vargas trade and assigned him to AAA Tacoma where he continued to hit well, posting an OBP north of .370 for the 3rd time in his minor league career and adding 15 more home runs while holding his walk and strikeout rates at solid marks of 11.8% and 20.2%. He earned a September stint with the big club where he excelled, hitting .315/.415/.463 in 65 plate appearances and hitting his first major league home run in a pinch hit appearance. Despite his success in a small sample, he was sent back to Tacoma in 2011 where raked again, posting a scorching .347/.414/.653 slash with 21 bombs in just 286 plate appearances. They couldn't keep him on the farm any longer, and he played in a nearly everyday capacity for the Mariners in the second half of the year, hitting 12 homers and putting up a solid slash of .276/.326/.466. Even though he walked in just 6.1% of his plate appearances, well below his minor league average, his power was impressive, especially playing his home games in Safeco.
A popular sleeper in fantasy circles going into the 2012 season, Carp was handed a starting job in the M's outfield but was unable to capitalize, falling victim to both injuries and ineffectiveness at the plate, posting an ugly slash line of just .213/.312/.341 and putting only five balls into the seats in 189 plate appearances. However, it wasn't all bad- his walk and strikeout rates moved in the right directions from the 6.1% and 25.9% marks he posted in his first extended run in the majors to 11.1% and 24.3% in 2012, and part of his batting average dip can be attributed to his 80 point drop in BABIP from .343 to .263, which was accompanied by just a 3.8% decline in his line drive rate which was a still solid 21.0%, a mark that would have put his expected BABIP over .300. Also worth noting are his 2012 platoon splits- though he was very solid against righties in 2011 he managed just a .180 average against them in 2012, with .300+ marks against lefties in both seasons and had higher power rates against southpaws.
Even though his 2012 season was something of a letdown, his age (26), lefty bat and minor league track record of power, patience and defensive versatility should make Carp who I don't think has any chance of making it through waivers unclaimed. The Astros just added Chris Carter, another power/patience 1B/OF type, but I think Carp is simply too talented to pass up- he profiles as a platoon player but assuming he's fully recovered from his 2012 hip injury he would have a chance to be one of the Astros' more feared hitters if he can find his 2011 form again. One of Jeff Luhnow's first moves as GM was to add a talented outfielder who had worn out his welcome with his prior team in Fernando Martinez, and this week he has a chance to make a similar move by claiming Carp. He'd add to an already muddled 1st base/corner outfield situation in Houston, but Carp is very far from a lost cause and is worth a shot for the slap hitting Astros.