Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Today's Featured Prospect: Mike Carp

We here at MPH know that the lean months, between December and February, are notoriously quiet, so we have procured some articles for your enjoyment. We'll do our best to get you up to date on some of the prospects in our farm. Today, it's a Carp kind of day.

We feel that Carp is primed for a HUGE breakout season next year, and we're not alone in that assessment. But what is Mike Carp all about? Here it is:

Carp Maintaining In His Development

Mike Carp isn't looking to change anythingBy Patrick Teale

Two and a half years after being selected in the ninth round of the 2004 MLB Draft, first baseman Mike Carp has quickly evolved into one of the top Mets' prospects. He has made marked improvements to his approach at the plate, cut down on his strikeouts, and transformed his defensive game at first base. Now all he wants to do is maintain his game as he most likely moves up to double-A in 2007.

When Mike Carp was drafted, the Mets thought they were getting just a left-handed pull hitter with power potential who might struggle with strikeouts. An outfielder and first baseman in high school, nobody was even sure which position he would play

Fast-forward to the end of the 2006 season and he has quickly made adjustments in all aspects of his game. Once a dead pull hitter, even as recently as a year ago with the Hagerstown Suns, Carp became a much better all-around hitter in the Florida State League this year.

"We've worked a lot this year on getting me to use the whole field and I think it has paid off," Carp told InsidePitchMagazine.com. "Overall I [had] a pretty good year. I'm going with the pitches more, hitting them where they're pitched, and not being so one-dimensional now."

After hitting .249 with the Suns in 2005 and striking out 96 times in just 313 at-bats, Carp finished the 2006 season hitting .287 with 107 strikeouts in 491 at-bats and he credits
his opposite field mentality for his turnaround.

More than just a slugger now, utilizing the entire field rather than seeing how far he can hit it down the right field line, Carp's power numbers were not as good as a year ago, but
he isn't concerned at all.

"The power will come," Carp said after hitting 17 home runs with the St. Lucie Mets this year, compared to 19 home runs in less at-bats in 2005. "It's a big league park. Balls don't fly as good as they did last year, but I think the average is a big thing for me this year. The power is down but everything else, the run production and stuff, is still the same. Balls just aren't going over the fence."

With home runs not coming at the same rate, some prospects might ditch their new batting philosophy in favor of hitting more home runs. More patient at the plate these days, Carp is also becoming patient in his development. He is confident his
power numbers will only get better.

"I'm only 20 years old and I had a good showing last year," said Carp. "I think that [the power] will take care of itself. I'm just going to go up [to double-A] and do the same things I've done this year. The balls seem to carry better the other way and it's funny, that's where my power is now. If I keep the same approach, it will take off."

Along with his improved approach in the batter's box, the other noticeable difference in Carp's game is his incredibly improved defensive play at first base. Once considered a below average first baseman at the rookie level two years ago, he was named the best defensive first baseman in the Florida State League this past season.

"We worked a lot from Instructs to Spring Training and I think it has paid off a lot," Carp said of his improved defensive game at first base. "There's still a lot I can do to improve
that but I think it has done real well for me this year.

Aiding his defensive turnaround in such a short period of time has been his strong commitment to getting in better shape. Once your typical slugging first baseman, known more his power than nimble feet, Carp has morphed his body into that of an athlete.

"We worked on that through Instructs and Spring Training, trying to slim me down," he admitted. "I feel a lot better athletically. It's not so much weight loss. I've maintained the same weight. I've toned up a bit and the body fat has gone down."

Increased athleticism has helped him progress defensively, no doubt, but a strong conviction to put in the extra hours of work around the bag has made all the difference in the world. Carp and the Mets have even instituted unconventional drills
to improve his defensive play.

"I'm pretty good at picking the balls up out of the dirt," said the 20-year old. "Range is something we've been working on lately, trying to get my footwork a little quicker. Actually I've been taking balls at shortstop to go back and forth to improve my range. That's helping now and I'm starting to get balls easier that I don't [normally] get to."

Carp, who played the majority of the 2006 season as a 19-year old in the Florida State League, realizes he is following the same career path as Mets' third baseman David Wright and some scouts believe Carp could be primed for a similar double-A breakout.

"I feel like the Mets have given me a real good opportunity," Carp told us. "I'm in high-A and I'm 20 years old - you can't ask for much more and hopefully I'll be in double-A next year and try to improve there."

Making marked improvements to his entire game and with the results proving his hard work is paying off, Carp is not looking to change anything in his current game. Rather, he
just wants to maintain the lessons he has learned.

"Just maintaining," Carp listed as the next stage in his development. "If I stay healthy, and if I continue to do what I've done the whole year, things will be good."

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