How Does Trade To Houston Astros Affect Chris Carter’s Outlook?

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

In the days before last night, I had written that emerging slugger Chris Carter‘s time in the spotlight was coming with the Oakland Athletics; with a role locked in as the team’s DH and first baseman, he was only a full season’s worth of at-bats away from a 35+ homer season – and potential stardom.

With yesterday’s trade that sent the 26-year old to the Houston Astros, the situation has changed very quickly for the long-time top prospect.

Carter’s immense right-handed power won’t be affected much, of course. After all, he’ll be moving away from the spacious Coliseum, and that Minute Maid Park in Houston has been traditionally a slightly-above neutral home run park should provide a slight boost to his power numbers.

Whether he’ll get enough opportunities to do so, though, is not immediately clear.

Unlike in Oakland, where he had a claim on the team’s DH job, the Astros already have a three-outcome hitter in that spot in Carlos Pena. Carter won’t have the inside track there, nor will he have one at first base, which is currently occupied by Brett Wallace.

That said, that’s where Carter will most likely be given his best chance to win a regular gig in 2012. Wallace, a former top prospect who is also 26, has been streaky so far, and has been bounced back and forth between the minors and big leagues over the last couple of seasons.

Carter will likely go into the season as a right-handed complement to Wallace, and an extended slump from the incumbent could open the door for the former to get a full plate of at-bats instead of a platoon gig.

It’s also worth noting that Wallace has also played a bit of third base, where Matt Dominguez will start the season. Wallace may get a few rogue starts there, but it’s unlikely to affect the long-term picture as he’s not exactly the most accomplished fielder at the hot corner.

With three players sharing two jobs on the team, Carter may initially be looking at limited opportunities when the 2013 season begins.

However, neither Wallace or Pena are locks to produce, and Pena could be out of the picture by 2014. If Carter can simply carry over the three-outcome skills he showed with Oakland last season, it won’t be very long before his power gets him a hold of a regular gig.

It’s not entirely ideal, and he might not get enough at-bats to reach that 35+ homer potential like he would in Oakland, but the opportunities are out there in Houston, and Carter’s long-term outlook remains bright.

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