Mike Carp has kind of become a forgotten man among Mariners prospects, but he’s changing that in a hurry. Like former Tacoma teammate Mike Wilson did already this season, Carp is thrusting himself into the mix in the best manner possible: By crushing the ball.
His performance tonight for the Rainiers, in their 18-6 win in New Orleans, is the kind that gets you noticed by the right people. Playing against the New Orleans Zephyrs at Zephyr Field, Carp hit a three-run homer in the first inning, a two-run homer in the fifth inning, and a solo homer in the eighth inning. He came up in the ninth with a chance for a four-homer game, and merely hit the ball over the center fielder’s head for a double.
It’s not like this is an isolated hot night, either. Carp’s average is up to .303, with a .606 slugging percentage. He has 10 homers and 28 runs batted in. He has 10 doubles. Each of those numbers would lead the Mariners, most of them by a large margin, the batting average matching Ichiro’s. And that’s despite a very slow start this season. Over his last 18 games, Carp is hitting .405 (30-for-74) with eight homers, eight doubles, 21 runs and 24 RBIs.
I don’t know if Carp, who turns 25 in June, is a great long-term prospect. I know there are those who think not. In his first brief stint in the majors in 2009, he hit .315 with an .878 OPS in 54 at-bats. Then, last year, he hit just .171 in 35 at-bats. No one seemed very excited about him this spring. But while everyone is focusing on Dustin Ackley (who had four hits tonight and is also red-hot, but is likely still a couple of weeks from a callup, because of the arbitration implications), I don’t see how the Mariners can afford to not throw a torrid bat like Carp’s into a lineup that is, to put it bluntly, pathetic.
He’s not going to supplant Justin Smoak from first base, obviously. He could play in left field, but the Mariners are still trying to figure out what they have in Carlos Peguero and Mike Wilson. This Mariner season needs to become more and more about looking at their kids and figuring out who’s a keeper and who’s not. That leaves an obvious spot for Mike Carp at designated hitter in place of Jack Cust. Yes, Cust is hitting better of late and getting on base at a nice clip, but he still doesn’t have a home run. He is a cleanup-hitting DH with a .291 slugging percentage. On a power-starved team like the Mariners, at a position that’s purely about production, that’s not acceptable. I’m not advocating cutting Cust — you can make room for Carp easily by reducing the bullpen to six, and sending down Tom Wilhelmsen. Wilhelmsen has pitched exactly two innings in the last 17 games. It would actually help his development to go down and get some work, and Eric Wedge now has a new relief arm to use in Jeff Gray.
The Mariners are a team in desperate need of a hitting spark, and Mike Carp is one of hottest hitters on the planet right now. It’s a perfect time to give him a shot.
(Photo by Associated Press)