For an Alabama program looking for ways to replace its entire weekend pitching rotation, Friday was a step in the right direction.
The help is in the form of junior college transfer Will Carter, who officially joins the roster after the deadline for major league teams to sign its 2014 draft picks passed at 4 p.m. CT. He will compete for the Crimson Tide in the 2015 season and has two years of eligibility remaining.
The 6-foot-2, 185-pound right-hander out of Walters State Community College was drafted in the 35th round by the Texas Rangers on June's draft. He signed with the Crimson Tide in late June, picking the Crimson Tide over North Carolina and Clemson and enrolled in classes earlier this month. Even though he was attending class, the Rangers had until Friday at 4 p.m. to sign Carter.
"Will has a very explosive arm and serious arm strength and that's what we needed," Alabama coach Mitch Gaspard said.
A Johnson City, Tenn. native, Carter signed with East Tennessee State out of high school and played there as a freshman in 2012. Carter transferred to Walters State following that season, and months before the 2013 season began, Carter signed with Tennessee. But before his season at Walters State got going, he underwent Tommy John elbow surgery and was sidelined for the entire 2013 campaign.
He worked back cautiously in 2014, appearing in 12 games (three starts), all of which came in the final half of the year. He went 1-0 with a 4.41 ERA in 16.1 innings of work.
Still, Carter was drafted by Texas despite only those 16.1 competitive innings in the past two seasons, had interest from major Division I-A college programs and Gaspard got a chance to see why first hand. Alabama coaches were able to evaluate Carter late in the spring - only a couple months after he was back throwing - and were overwhelmingly impressed. His fastball velocity sat between 92-95 mph and he showed a strong curveball to boot.
"We worried that he looked so good someone was going to draft him high," Gaspard said.
Carter could be an option to full the void left by Alabama's 2013 rotation - Spencer Turnbull, Justin Kamplain and Jon Keller. Turnbull was a second-round pick by the Detroit Tigers, Kamplain signed as an 18th round selection by the Yankees and Keller will miss the entire 2015 season because of elbow surgery.
"He has a power arm that could certainly be a weekend rotational guy, but he's still a guy who is going to need some experience," Gaspard said.
Fortunately for Carter, he has an opportunity to accrue plenty of that.