Versatile Carte bounces back again
Right fielder equipped to handle 'Minor' adversity
Daniel Carte's rebound from a slow start this spring should come as no surprise to the scouts who have followed him. They've seen him make adjustments before.
Carte began the season as one of the most highly touted outfielders in college baseball. He struggled early against non-conference competition, but eventually pulled his game together and raised his batting average to .315 by mid-May. He led his team and was second in the Big South Conference in home runs and RBIs with 13 and 64, respectively.
Scouts, however, were nonplused by Carte's slow start. As one National League scouting director asserted, "There's an old saying that the big leagues is full of guys who had a bad spring."
Carte showed scouts plenty before this season. His MVP performance in the Cape Cod League last summer essentially cemented his status as a top draft pick. He led the star-studded league in home runs (11), RBIs (38) and slugging percentage (.560) and became just the sixth player in league history to reach double figures in home runs.
"He's strong for his size," said one American League scout of the 6-foot, 190-pound outfielder. "And he has all the tools you look for -- speed, arm strength, power plus bat speed."
Carte also has one intangible quality scouts like. He's mentally tough. On the Cape, he adapted to more than hitting with a wood bat. He adjusted to the hype and vacation crowds, which he never experienced growing up in Hurricane, W.V., a town of 5,200 people 30 miles southeast of the Ohio border. Its long winters and remote location kept the pace slow and easy.
The culture shock bothered Carte initially. He dug himself out of an early 0-19 slump to finish with a .308 batting average. Scouts, meanwhile, were surprised he didn't struggle using wood bats every day, as most power hitters in the Cape League have done.
"It's definitely a tough transition, but after a while it feels about the same," said Carte. "I enjoyed the challenge. I'd never faced top competition before."
He had hit with wood, however, and enjoyed almost the same success. In 2003, he was named the Player of the Year in the Great Lakes League, another wood-bat league for college players, and won the batting title with a .419 average.
Winthrop head coach Joe Hudak said Carte's exceptional vision helps the young slugger be effective no matter what kind of bat he uses. Carte can recognize a pitch and make changes as it hurtles toward him in the batter's box.
"I've rarely seen him take a bad swing," said Hudak. "Pitchers can't fool him."
Carte's dominance on the Cape was sweet redemption. In high school, several ACC and SEC colleges courted him after he was named West Virginia Player of the Year in 2002. But the big-time schools eventually backed off.
"I think part of the reason was they didn't know where to put him," said Hudak. "Everyone knew he was a great hitter, but he was a shortstop in high school."
After arriving at Winthrop in 2003, Carte worked hard to make himself into a top-notch defensive right fielder with excellent range and a plus-arm. The effort was indicative of his character. Even after his breakout performance on the Cape, he remained modest and coachable.
"Most kids playing at a mid-major college would've changed after being the MVP of the Cape Cod League," said Hudak. "Daniel could've come back and strutted his stuff, but it didn't change him one iota. He's a great team guy and all his teammates love him."
Carte said he's focused squarely on helping Winthrop win the Big South Conference title and advancing as far as possible toward the College World Series. That doesn't mean he hasn't thought of the draft.
"You can't help noticing the scouts at the games," said Carte. "And maybe when I'm sitting in class daydreaming, I think about the draft a little."
A few of those dreams are of playing in Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the ballpark he and his grandparents frequented when he was a kid. As an Oriole farmhand, Carte knows he'd play single-A ball in Frederick, Md., where his grandparents live.
No matter which club drafts him, one thing is for certain. Carte is better equipped than most to handle the adversity he'll face in the Minor Leagues. He's already done it plenty of times as an amateur.
Chris Gigley is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.