After finding success drafting a Division II player in Kevin Pillar four years ago, Alex Anthopoulos’s staff used the same approach in the later rounds of the 2014 MLB draft. While many organizations are kicking themselves for passing on Pillar; the Toronto Blue Jays are hoping they have found another sleeper outfield prospect in Chris Carlson.
Selected in the 28th round (834th overall) out of California State University Pomona, Carlson was excited for the opportunity to prove himself in professional baseball after two seasons with the Broncos, where he won a gold glove for his tremendous outfield play in 2014.
“Being drafted by the Blue Jays was really exciting,” said Carlson. “My draft experience wasn’t just exciting for me, but for my family as well. Obviously playing professional baseball isn’t an opportunity that every player gets to do. It was a really cool experience for sure.”
Noticed by professional scouts for his flawless fielding percentage in his final season at Cal Poly Pomona, Carlson credits a lot of his early success in professional baseball on the preparation he received from coach Randy Betten, a former Angels farmhand that develops all of his guys to play at the next level.
“My former coach Randy Betten played five seasons in the minor leagues,” explained Carlson. “Obviously having a coach that played professional baseball helped a lot in preparing me to play pro ball, because he was able to give me an idea what it was going to be like. Basically he designed our practices to prepare us to play at the next level.”
Making a big jump from Division II baseball to short season Vancouver last year, Carlson wasn’t derailed by the transition at all, as he carried an impressive .312/.409/.381 slash line in the Northwest League.
It was clear after his season in Vancouver that Carlson was ready for a promotion prior to the beginning of the 2015 season. That opportunity presented itself out of spring training when the organization sent the California native to the Midwest League to join the Low-A Lansing Lugnuts last month.
Continuing to showcase the same plate discipline he exhibited in his first professional season. Carlson has drawn more walks than strikeouts in the early stages of the season. Currently sporting a .265/.367/.338 slash line in his first full season; the prospect is continuing to exemplify every aspect of staying consistent in the batter’s box on a daily basis.
His ability to be patient at the plate is something that Carlson feels sets him apart from a lot of his counterparts in professional baseball. The prospect understands the importance of this skill to keep him from becoming complacent, as he has limited power in his bat.
“I feel my greatest strength in the batter’s box is my ability to manage the strike zone,” stated Carlson. “I feel I have a pretty good eye at recognizing what pitches I should and should not swing at when I’m in the box.”
Professional scouts have also noticed how good of an eye Carlson has as soon as he came onto the scene giving him plus grades in plate patience, contact, and overall batting. But it’s not just the scouts raving about how talented of a hitter Carlson is on a daily basis. The young prospect is also impressing his hitting coach Kenny Graham.
“Chris Carlson is a good baseball player,” stated Graham. “Chris is an older guy in our lineup, as he competed in college baseball. Chris handled the transition to professional baseball very well, as he had a great season in Vancouver last year.”
“Chris is fun to watch,” Graham added. “He’s great on the base paths and takes professional at-bats. Chris has the ability to grind out hits and he competes every time he’s at the plate. He’s really fun to watch.”
Carlson’s ability goes far beyond the batter’s box, as his biggest attribute to his team is the way he plays defense. Being able to play anywhere in the outfield is a skill that the 24-year old outfielder takes great pride in every day.
“I don’t have a preference where I play in the outfield,” said Carlson. “I take great pride in being a well-rounded player that can play multiple positions.”
“My greatest strength in the outfield is my ability to be quick with my release after I catch the ball,” he added. “I’m always focused on who is hitting. I make sure to know what kind of player they are, so I’m in the right place to make a play.”
Showing all the signs of why he won a collegiate gold glove in professional baseball, Carlson is currently 27-for-27 on his chances this season in Lansing. The prospect has only committed two errors for his professional career and he has also picked up three outfield assists since last June.
Be sure to follow Chris Carlson as he continues to be an excellent outfield option in the Blue Jays minor league system for years to come.