The “five-tool player” is the elusive dream of professional baseball scouts.
Nothing excites talent evaluators more than a player who can hit for power, hit for average, field his position, throw well and run the bases — the “five tools” of baseball.
WKU Head Coach Chris Finwood said there’s “not a lot of five-tool guys in college baseball.”
But he said one of the few happens to be his junior center fielder, Kes Carter.
Ever since making his first start in center as a freshman Topper, Carter has been garnering attention from pro scouts.
In his time at WKU, the left-hander has a .358 career average with 104 RBIs, is 24-for-30 on stolen base attempts and has committed just five errors.
And that’s why scouts have been lined up since fall workouts to watch Carter.
Senior catcher Matt Rice said it’s almost comical for a player to have the natural talents of Carter.
“We always joke about how anytime a ball is hit to him, he just makes it look so easy,” Rice said. “We’re lucky to have a player like him at Western.”
Carter was drafted in the 43rd round of the 2008 MLB Draft by the Florida Marlins.
Finwood said Carter was a “raw” athlete out of high school and made the right decision of turning down life in the minors to play at WKU.
Carter said he’s found aspects of his game to improve on each year. This year, for instance, he said he wanted to improve his plate discipline.
“For the past two years I’ve hit pretty well, but there’s a few things I can work on,” Carter said. “Especially just laying off bad pitches and having a middle-away approach (and hitting) towards left-center.”
Finwood said Carter has improved in those areas.
“He still swings at some bad pitches, but everyone does from time to time,” Finwood said. “He’s cut down on his strikeouts, and he’s been hitting in the .400s ever since we moved him into the four-hole of the lineup.”
As Carter becomes a more well-rounded player, his draft stock will continue to rise.
Finwood said he thinks Carter will be one of the so-called “sandwich” supplemental picks of the 2011 MLB Draft, meaning he’ll be taken between the first and second rounds.
That would allow Carter to pass former Topper third baseman Wade Gaynor as the highest-drafted player in WKU baseball history.
Gaynor came to WKU undrafted out of Hancock County High School but was taken in the third round of the 2009 draft by the Detroit Tigers after his junior year.
“For guys like Wade and Kes to be drafted so high is very gratifying,” Finwood said. “It allows us to show high school and JUCO kids that will be draft picks that if they come here, they can come out as better draft picks.”
When looking at the type of pro Carter will become, Finwood compared him to a player he coached as an assistant while at Auburn, current St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Colby Rasmus.
“They’re similar players because they’re both left-handed, run well and hit with pop,” Finwood said.
Carter wouldn’t speculate on his future, saying he wanted to focus on the rest of the season and let the draft process “take care of itself.”
While his days in a Topper uniform may be numbered, Carter said that he wants to spend the rest of his time at WKU leading his team to the postseason.
“I definitely want to be a guy that uses my talents given by God to lead this team to conference title, and hopefully on to a Regional,” Carter said.
But Finwood said that if Carter gets drafted in the first few rounds of the draft he should “take the opportunity.”
“He’s a great athlete, and he’ll get even better once he’s able to focus solely on baseball,” Finwood said. “His best days of baseball are well ahead of him.”