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Opening Day Countdown: Chris Carter #33

The Brewers first spring training game starts today and real baseball is just 33 days away. So let's talk about Chris Carter!

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

At one point it seemed highly likely the Brewers would go into this season with Jason Rogers as their starting regular at first base. Then they shocked the world by trading him to the Pirates. Okay, "shocked" might be a bit strong and by "the world" I mean the BCB staff and community. Once the dust settled we ran a series highlighting all the first base options in free agency. The general consensus here and elsewhere online was that the Brewers would go with Pedro Alvarez. But instead they went with Chris Carter and we probably should have seen that coming a mile away.

For one thing, Chris Carter came up with the Houston Astros and played with them for his entire major league career to date. (*Edit: Actually he was drafted by the White Sox and played several years with the Oakland Athletics, not sure how I forgot that) David Stearns is as familiar with Carter as anyone in the baseball world. He's not the first Astro to be brought on board either--that would be Jonathan Villar. We also should have seen it coming because of Carter's unique contract status.

The 2016 season is technically Chris Carter's first arbitration year. The Astros non-tendered him which made him a free agent. As a free agent the Brewers signed him to a one year deal worth $2.5 million with another half million possible through incentives. However despite the his being a free agent and the guaranteed deal only being for one year, the Brewers will retain team control through the 2018 season--his second and third/final arbitration seasons. The Brewers will have the chance to negotiate his salary or non-tender him in each of those arb-years.

That type of no-risk team control was available nowhere else. It's perfect for a rebuilding club. Either Chris Carter improves his stock and now the Brewers have a controllable asset to trade or they have a cheap a filler at first base until they can find a better alternative. Perhaps one of the best case scenarios includes Chris Carter helping a competitive 2018 Milwaukee Brewers teams.

The most likely way he could help the team is with his home run power. Contact is an issue for him--he has a 33.4% strikeout rate for his career--but he has immense power. When he does hit the ball, he hits it hard. Very hard. From 2012 through 2015 his .245 ISO ranks 8th in baseball among qualified hitters. He finds himself sandwich right between Miguel Cabrera (.246) and former Brewer Khris Davis (.244).

Looking at the projection systems, Steamer seems the low "guy" on Carter's power potential for 2016. It projects him for just 22 home runs. PECOTA projects him for 27 home runs. And ZiPS projects him for 31 home runs. I'm going to predict he hits a couple more than that. Why? Well because the universe is clearly telling us so: We're 33 days from opening day, Carter wears number 33, and he has nearly a 33% strikeout rate. The logic is unassailable!

However many home runs he does or doesn't hit for the Brewers this year, I'm really looking forward to seeing him play. And it's really starting to feel like the season is just around the corner. Are you all getting as excited as I am? I hope so!

Statistics including Steamer and ZiPS projections courtesy of FanGraphs
Contract details courtesy of Cot's Contracts