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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

June 8, 2011 at 12:42 PM

Let’s be realistic when it comes to Babe, er, Mike Carp (plus minor-league report)

carpmug.jpg

(Here is today’s Mariner minor-league report, the first in a long time not to chronicle the exploits of Mike Carp).

This is going to sound contradictory from someone who has been advocating so long for Mike Carp’s promotion to the major leagues — more than one person has accused me of being his agent — but now we all need to settle down a little bit.

Mike Carp is not going to be the offensive savior for the 2011 Mariners, even though I sense he’s been built up so much, some people are expecting just that.

I firmly believe Carp has a chance to make a positive impact, and certainly deserves a chance to try. But nothing in Carp’s track record prior to this torrid streak suggests that he’s going to suddenly become a left-handed-hitting version of Albert Pujols. He came into this year as a career .271 hitter in the minors with a .818 OPS — not bad, but not the numbers of a superstar.

That said, when a hitter is as hot as Carp is — and he’s been ridiculously hot — and you have a team that’s been as offensively lacking as the Mariners have been — and they’ve been ridiculously lacking — it would have been ridiculous for the Mariners to not try to capture some of that. The beauty of it all is that Carp doesn’t have to be Albert Pujols to help the Mariners. All he has to do is be a good, solid hitter with some pop and some patience, and there’s no reason he can’t be that. This is a team crying out for someone who can hit with a little bit of authority, and if Carp is that person, he’ll earn himself a niche. If not, they’ll keep looking. I just hope he gets a reasonable amount of time to show what he can do.

I give Carp credit for transforming himself into more of a power hitter last year when the Mariners indicated they were looking for more thump from him. He had never hit more than 19 homers in a season, and he raised that total to 29 with Tacoma. And this year, he lost weight in the offseason and got in better shape so he could have more mobility in the outfield; he’s transformed himself into a decent outfielder.

I’ve always liked Carp’s approach to hitting, and his discipline at the plate. In his first big-league stint, in 2009, he hit .315 in 21 games and had a .415 on-base percentage. Small sample size, but impressive. He came up again last year (smaller sample size — 13 games) and hit .171 with a .256 on-base percentage.

He seemingly was buried in the organization, but unburied himself by hitting nearly .400 for over a month, with lots of power. Yes, it’s just the PCL, but Carp hit so well the Mariners could no longer ignore him.

Carp is still young, too — he turns 25 on June 30. It’s possible, as I wrote earlier, that he’s reached a juncture in his career when he’s ready to make a quantum leap forward. Players develop at different speeds, and sometimes they break out unexpectedly.

It will be fun to watch what Carp does, and see if he can transfer his unbelievably hot bat to the major leagues. But don’t expect miracles.

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