Yusuf Carter Learning as He Goes

Yusuf Carter (DAYTONA CUBS PHOTO/SCOTT JONTES)

Yusuf Carter has worked a lot on plate discipline in his pro career. He isn't where he wants to be, but he is making a point to take something from every at-bat and hopefully make enough strides to get to his next destination.

"You learn a lot about yourself playing this game because it's one of the most humbling games you could ever play," says Carter, an outfielder at Class-A Daytona.

What the 23-year-old Carter is learning now is that he still has a long way to go.

Selected in the 12th round of the 2005 draft, Carter was assigned to Daytona for the start of 2008 after finishing the season there a year ago. He'd shown the Cubs enough to warrant a mid-season promotion from Class-A Peoria, where he batted .258 with 10 home runs (part of 24 extra-base hits) and 41 RBIs in 68 games.

But Carter struggled with the initial move to Daytona, batting .190 in 58 games. Cubs Minor League Hitting Coordinator Dave Keller called that performance "frustrating" from the organization's standpoint.

"You go a couple of days and you say, ‘this guy is a corner outfielder and is going to be an impact player,' and then he disappeared," Keller said of Carter. "That was very frustrating for us because we've seen the ability that he has."

Listed as 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, Carter possesses home run power and the ability to hit to all fields. With 30 homers and 31 doubles in his career, he is just as likely to hit the ball out of the park as he is to hit it to the gaps.

Keller describes Carter as one of the more unique hitters in the Cubs' system. That may not come as much of a surprise considering his uncle, Joe Carter, was an All-Star hitter.

"The ball jumps off his bat different than almost every guy we have in the organization," said Keller. "When he hits the ball on the barrel, the ball flies ... and I mean with some quickness. It's just a matter of whether this guy is going to be able to play day in and day out and make the necessary adjustments."

Carter has played in just 18 games this season, mainly the result of being slowed by a hamstring injury that kept him on the disabled list for three weeks.

The injury occurred when Carter rounded second base while stretching out a triple in a game against the Vero Beach Rays on April 12 at Daytona.

He entered this week batting .260, but a recent skid dropped his average to .219. Carter said he feels fully recovered from the hamstring and that it hasn't affected his swing.

"I feel 100 percent healthy," he said.

With his leg a non-issue, the right-handed batting Carter is working to break some old bad habits he has in the batter's box.

Those bad habits include, "getting too anxious and trying to do too much, taking myself out of the at-bat instead of letting the game come to me and relaxing."

Pitchers also often work in a lot of breaking balls while facing Carter, who admits he has struggled at times to connect on them.

"It's more of a struggle when I chase after them," Carter said. "But for the most part, if I don't swing at their pitches and help them out, I'm pretty much (begging) them to throw me a fastball. I get into trouble when I get anxious and try to hit every pitch that I see. I just need to be patient and wait for mine."

Carter said that he has made some adjustments with his hands this season.

"My hands are more still now and I just kind of rest them so that I don't have much head movement," Carter said. "(That way) I can focus on seeing the pitch."

Defensively, Carter can play all three outfield positions, particularly the corner spots. Most of his starts in the outfield have come in left field this season, and Carter is still searching for his first outfield assist of the year.

"I feel, and they feel, that I can play all outfield positions, and I take pride in being able to do that," Carter said. "To get called up, I need to be able to play them all. It gives me a better chance to play somewhere. It doesn't matter where as long as I'm out there."

Carter realizes he still has a ways to go before a call-up becomes a genuine possibility. In the meantime, he's still learning as he goes.

"I can definitely tell I'm learning more and more as I go, but there are going to be times when you go back to your old habits," he said. "For the most part, I'm just trying to make sure I keep progressing and keep learning."

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