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Blue Jays Sign Alan Zhang Carter to Minor League Deal, He’ll Get a Spring Training Look

 Leif Skodnick  |    Feb 15th, 2024 11:41am EST

Alan Carter of China pitches during a pool B game between China and the Czech Republic at the 2023 World Baseball Classic at Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan, March 10, 2023. (Photo by Zhang Xiaoyu/Xinhua via Getty Images)

By Julian Guilarte
World Baseball Network

The Toronto Blue Jays signed Chinese pitcher Alan Zhang Carter to a minor league contract on Jan. 17.

The deal includes an invite to the Blue Jays Spring Training in Dunedin, Florida. Carter, 26, was in the Los Angeles Angels Minor League system last season. 

In 2023, he pitched for the Angels’ Low-A affiliate, the Inland Empire 66ers, and their Double-A affiliate, the Rocket City Trash Pandas. Carter is a right-handed pitcher and was promoted to Double-A on June 19. He pitched 19 games out of the bullpen across both levels, throwing 28 innings with 38 strikeouts and an ERA of 4.40.

His season ended on Aug. 1 due to injury and he was released by the Angels on Aug. 31.

“I ended last season with an injury and getting released, so the last six months have been just chipping away at recovery and getting back to this point where I can prove myself again,” Carter told World Baseball Network. “It was really just through daily self-belief and discipline that I envisioned myself being in this situation again, and I put in the work every day to earn this job with the Blue Jays.”

Carter is looking forward to continuing his development and climbing through the Blue Jays’ system. It’s been a long road for Carter to get back to this point, and this isn’t the first time he had to battle back from an injury. In the summer of 2021, Carter underwent Tommy John surgery after suffering an ulnar collateral ligament injury in the Coastal Plain League with the Wilmington Sharks.

Carter played six years of college baseball from 2017-22. He redshirted his first season with the Columbus State Cougars in Georgia and only pitched 18 innings in two seasons with the Cougars before he decided to transfer to Lee University after the 2019 season. 

“Alan accepted a scholarship offer from Columbus State University (Georgia) knowing it was loaded with a senior pitching staff and he was not going to get much mound time,” Lee University reporter George Starr said on LeeUFlames.com.

In 2020, Carter hit another roadblock when the season was shortened due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. In 2021, he pitched 28.1 innings with 48 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.86 with. In 2022, he only appeared in 10 games due to his Tommy John recovery. 

In total, he threw 82.1 innings in college with 124 strikeouts and an ERA of 3.94. Carter felt like he still had more to prove to Major League Baseball teams and decided to pitch in the MLB Draft League with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers in the summer of 2022, where he threw 32.1 innings with 55 strikeouts and an ERA of 3.03. Carter went undrafted and didn’t pitch again until the 2023 World Baseball Classic with China.

Born in Singapore, Carter moved to Georgia when he was three years old. He pitched two games in the WBC and led China with five strikeouts. China went 0-4 in Pool B of the WBC. 

“Unless I win the World Series with the Blue Jays, representing China will be the greatest achievement in my baseball career,” Carter said. “My mother was born and raised in China, moved to the U.S. to create a better life for our family, and I felt like it was my way of partially repaying her for the infinite amount of sacrifices she has made for me.”

Representing China was the best week of Carter’s life and having his parents there to watch him made it very special for him. He credits the WBC for helping him gain some exposure, but ultimately feels that Tread Athletics was critical in getting him signed because they were able to get all the eyes in one place. 

“I made some minor tweaks in my mechanics, including how I hand break and not striding toward the first base side so much and just landing with a better direction towards home,” Carter said.

He also ditched his old slider grip that he had used for the previous four years, switching to a new grip that creates more up and down break instead of making the ball go left to right.

“I can’t thank Tread Athletics enough for getting me signed twice from back-to-back pro days at their facility,” Carter said. 

Tread Athletics was established in 2015 and is located in Charlotte, N.C. Most athletes don’t ever see the inside of TreadHQ, and 98 % of them work remotely with the coaches. Hunter Townsend is a third-year performance coach at Tread who worked with Carter, and works diligently to provide the best possible information to the athletes in whatever avenue that might be. 

“So initially, we worked on adding a little bit of length back into his arm swing. It had gotten a little too tight as a result of him wanting to make it ‘easier for him to throw strikes’ – his own words,” Townsend told World Baseball Network.

Townsend also helped Carter slightly modify his arsenal from the WBC to MLB.

“The bigger slider/curveball combo from WBC had a little too much variance in velocity and shape to help him comfortably throw it over the plate when he needed to,” Townsend said.

Carter said his fastball is still the same and his splitter is a little more consistent. His pitch mix is currently a four-seam fastball thrown at 93-97 mph, a splitter thrown at 84-86 mph, and slider hurled at 86-90 mph.

“I think Carter is an interesting depth piece but he will be behind a few guys,” Toronto Blue Jays reporter Shi Davidi of Sportsnet told World Baseball Network. 

Carter is grateful for the opportunity that the Blue Jays have provided him and will report to Dunedin towards the end of February.