Texas Rangers’ Evan Carter ready for first full season in the big leagues after heroic World Series run

Even as he prepares for the ups and downs of 162 games, MLB’s No. 5 prospect has lofty expectations for his rookie year in Texas

Every player who gets to the big leagues has a unique path. The world knew Bryce Harper was born for MLB stardom when he graced the cover of Sports Illustrated as a 16-year-old. But that’s not the journey for most players.

Very, very few become World Series heroes before they even get 100 at-bats under their belts. But that was the case for Texas Rangers rookie phenom Evan Carter, who introduced himself to the baseball world on its biggest stage last fall. After his call-up on Sept. 9, Carter played in just 23 regular-season games before absolutely thriving in the postseason. At 21 years old, the Rangers outfielder carried a .917 OPS in the playoffs and became the youngest player since Mickey Mantle to hit third in Game 1 of the World Series, helping Texas secure the first World Series championship in franchise history.

“It's been a whirlwind,” Carter told Yahoo Sports during spring training. “Going from Double-A to Triple-A for a little bit and then getting called up, it all happened really fast. So [I’m] really blessed to have gotten to experience that.

"And then at the same time, [I’m] a little bit spoiled just to have gotten to experience the postseason and winning a World Series so quickly. There's people on the team that have been playing for 10 years and [had] never been to the playoffs.”

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‘I never really thought that I was good enough to make a living’

Before his brief stint with the Rangers prior to their postseason run, Carter flew through Texas’ minor-league system. He played in a total of 246 minor-league games after being drafted out of high school in the second round of the 2020 MLB Draft.

But the speed of Carter’s journey to the majors wasn’t nearly the most atypical part. The 2020 draft came after his senior high school season was canceled due to the COVID pandemic. There was an abbreviated draft process and no minor-league season in 2020, meaning Carter didn’t play organized baseball for more than a year.

In a normal year, it’s a major jump for a young player going from high school to pro ball. Being a high-school draft pick during COVID was an even bigger developmental challenge, made worse by the fact that games, workouts and in-person coaching were not an option.

“There was really nowhere to go, especially where I'm at — the facilities to be able to even go hit in the first place are kind of limited,” Carter said. “So when all that's off the table, what do you do? We were at home, so all the gyms were closed. We had just a couple of free weights in the basement, just doing exercises downstairs.”

Yet somehow, when minor-league ball resumed in 2021, Carter continued to thrive, hitting at every level despite being the youngest player at each stop. Only 17 when he was drafted, Carter, who was originally committed to playing at Duke out of high school, would be one of the youngest players on the Blue Devils’ 2024 roster had the Rangers not drafted him.

In fact, his development was so rapid that it came as a surprise to the player himself. Carter told Yahoo Sports that the idea of playing baseball professionally wasn’t on his radar for much of his high school career.

“I loved baseball, but I never really thought that I was good enough to make a living with it. And at the end of the day, it was for me,” he said. “[But if] I could use baseball to help pay for school, that was what was important at the time.”

His initial plan had been to major in biology at Duke.

“I really wanted to go through dental school and [be] an endodontist or an oral surgeon, somewhere in that route,” he said. “But we're a long way from that.”

[Read more: MLB 26-and-under power rankings: How high are the ceilings for the Rangers' Evan Carter and Wyatt Langford?]

‘I'm going to get punched in the mouth’

After achieving the ultimate goal of winning a World Series — before having more than a cup of coffee in the big leagues, no less — what does Carter do for an encore in his first full MLB season? It hardly seems fair that expectations are this high for someone who has played just 269 games in his pro career.

There haven’t been many lows for Carter to this point, but the Rangers rookie — who is ranked as the No. 5 prospect in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline — knows that’s not sustainable.

“I know this year is not going to be perfect the whole time,” he said. “I'm going to get punched in the mouth, and it's going to be, how quickly can I respond from that? Baseball is way too hard of a sport, way too humbling of a sport to just expect to do good all the time.”

The Rangers won the World Series last season behind many talented veterans, but also thanks to young players such as Carter who, in addition to contributing today, are the future of the franchise. Fellow rookie Wyatt Langford has also gotten plenty of attention from the baseball world, as the No. 4 pick in last year’s draft has thrived this spring and officially made the team’s Opening Day roster. As the Rangers begin their title defense, the two young outfielders could be cornerstones in Texas for a long time.

“I've really tried to get to know him off the field, get to know him as a person. Obviously, he's an incredible baseball player,” Carter said of Langford.

“It's exciting to have somebody my age [on the roster] that I get to relate to a little bit more,” he added. “Not to downgrade anybody else on the team, but it's a little bit different trying to hang out with a 35-year-old than it is with somebody my own age.”

Carter’s age belies just how much success he has had in such a short time. Yet for all his talent, the thing people throughout the Rangers organization rave about most is his maturity. And as he begins his first full season in the big leagues, that might be his most valuable attribute.

“I'm thankful that I got to spend so many years in the minors, so many seasons and games being around older players," he said. "… I learned how to fail and how to react to that and get out of it as quickly as possible. ...

“When you get drafted out of high school coming into pro ball, you have to grow up really quick."