If there’s any justice in this world, a National League team will draft Burnsville (Minn.) pitcher Sam Carlson.
Carlson, a senior who throws a fastball that usually runs between 94-96 mph, has climbed up the major league draft board. The right-hander’s future is clearly on the mound. Through 34 innings, he’s 3-1 with 68 strikeouts and a 0.41 earned run average.
However, the Florida signee is also making noise at the plate. Through 50 at-bats, he’s hitting .540 with six homers and 20 RBI. On Monday, he hit back-to-back two-run homers to lead the Blaze to a 4-3 defeat of Farmington in his team’s final regular-season game.
“When he steps up to the plate at 6-4 and 210 pounds, he’s got this big-old bubble butt from starting his squat workouts,” Burnsville coach Mick Scholl said. “One thing that has propelled him to the next level is his offseason commitment to making himself stronger and bigger. …
“If you look at him, from his upper body, he looks like a basketball player, but his lower body looks like a football player. There have been a couple kids in our program who have scared me every time I throw BP and he’s one of them. The ball comes off his bat so fast and I’ve seen him hit two home runs well over 400 feet. He hit a grand slam the other night into the wind.”
Despite his hitting prowess, Carlson knows swinging a bat is not going to be his meal ticket.
“Whoever takes me (in the draft) takes me,” Carlson said. “My future is on the mound and that’s what I focus on. I’m trying to have fun with the bat this year. I was fortunate to put two out the other day and I love hitting.”
Scholl said there might be a connection between Carlson’s effectiveness at the plate and on the mound.
“You can’t tell between his fastball and his change-up, because his change-up has so much movement on it,” Scholl said. “His curveball or slider is the one he’s worked on the most during the offseason because everyone is calling it a below-average pitch.
“There’s a correlation between his hitting and his pitching, When he keeps his front shoulder in, he just snaps that (slider) off and the same thing with his hitting. When that front shoulder is quiet, the ball just explodes off his bat.”
Carlson may be the best prospect to come along in Minnesota since Joe Mauer, who was the ALL-USA Player of the Year in football and baseball his senior year at Cretin-Derham Hall (St. Paul) in the 2000-01 school year.
Carlson said the comparison to Mauer is flattering but hardly accurate.
“The first time I heard (the comparison), it was pretty cool, but I try not to worry about it because I have to go out there and prove myself,” Carlson said. “If you get too caught up in that stuff, it will get to you. It’s not something that motivates me more or makes me feel like I have shoes to fill. I’m me. I’m a totally different player than he is.”
Carlson first started getting attention from pro scouts last season.
“He got invited to a national tryout right before his junior year,” Scholl said. “He threw in the low-90s at that time. We had a kid called Nick Hanson (from Prior Lake [Savage] in our conference who was drafted (in the third -round by the Cincinnati Reds last June). We faced them and Sam outpitched him and all those scouts were around. Sam was between 92 and 93 mph and Nick was hitting 94-95, but Sam had better control and a better outing. That really propelled him to the next level and then they started to follow him in the playoffs and the state tournament and then he had all the USA Baseball tryouts and he continued to work.”
While Carlson quickly became used to seeing scouts at his games this season, it might have taken his teammates a while to get used to the extra attention.
“We started off playing with a little tightness because we had so many scouts around,” Scholl said. “I think our kids tried to do too much too soon and do more than what they could do. Now it is second nature to them. Now they see anywhere from 15 to 40 people out there. Now, they realize that Sam is unique and they just have to have fun.”
As good as Carlson is, his younger brother Max, a 6-foot sophomore pitcher-outfielder, might be even better some day.
“This season has been really fun,” Carlson said. “Coming into this season I knew he would be on the varsity. I just knew he had to prove himself to our coach. I knew he had the abilities and he’s proven himself to be an everyday player. He trains with me in the offseason and we go to practices together.
“It’s a pretty cool thing, being able to spend all my time with him. I’m just trying to pave the way so he learns every lesson quicker than I learned it. I feel like it is my job as a big brother.”