The Blue Jays have signed Alan Zhang Carter to a minor-league deal per USA Today's Bob Nightengale. The 26 year old right-handed relief pitcher went undrafted but spent his first MiLB season with the Angels in 2023. On the season, Carter had a 4.40 ERA across 32.2 innings pitched. At Single-A, he had a 1.77 ERA, 2.58 FIP, and a 36.8% strikeout rate. It was at Double-A where he faltered and had a 10.80 ERA across just 8.1 innings pitched. Carter also pitched bulk innings for Team China in the World Baseball Classic.
Why would someone like Carter catch the eye of the Blue Jays? The first reason you'll come across is that he strikes out a lot of batters. An 11.9 K/9 is well above average even for a reliever. We can also hone in on his arsenal (his WBC pitch data is publicly available) to better understand what the Jays see in him and what they hope to unlock that the Angels couldn't.
Standing at 6-foot-3, Carter has plenty of arm talent and is capable of hitting 96 MPH in game. He hides the ball well with a delivery reminiscent of Pete Fairbanks of the Rays. His fastball sits around 94 MPH and the pitch had a 28 percent whiff rate in the WBC which is well above average for a fastball. It has significant riding life on it which makes it difficult for hitters to pick up and make contact on. He threw fastballs in the WBC with up to 20 inches of induced vertical break but he typically sat at around 15-18 inches. In a recent work-out with Tread Athletics (where he independently trains), Carter averaged 22 inches of induced vertical break which is elite riding action.
Carter looks to have recently tweaked his slider with Tread to be harder and tighter but there's still some merit in taking a look at how it performed in the WBC. He threw the pitch 82-83 MPH with sharp late break at the best of times. It had a 50% whiff rate on the 6 swings it generated. Carter has thrown a cutter before as well, it's a harder offering in the upper 80s and as expected has less break than his slider. Carter also throws a splitter in the 84-85 MPH range. It flashes great shape but his feel for it can be inconsistent leading to command issues.
Generally speaking, command and control are Carter's biggest obstacles to overcome. He's prone to losing the zone especially with his secondary stuff. He also can struggle with commanding his pitches in the zone which affects how his stuff plays in games. Keeping his mechanics consistent and the walks down will be one of the top priorities with the Blue Jays.
This isn't the first high stuff, low control minor league pitcher the Blue Jays have signed this off-season. Andrew Bechtold is a similar case of having promising pitch data but consistency questions to answer. Targeting players like this has its risks but in the form of a minor-league deal why not shoot for the upside? It's up in the air what level Carter will start at next season but it's fair to assume he'll get another shot to prove himself at Double-A with the Blue Jays, likely in a relief role.