DAVID J. PHILLIP- AP
I’ve made no bones about the fact that Matt Carpenter is one of my favorite baseball players. I monitored his progress during spring training and was convinced that he would be a very special–as well as important–player for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2013.
Entering the 2012 season, Carpenter was ranked the 12th best prospect in the Cardinals farm system. A .300 career hitter in the minors with an .859 OPS, there wasn’t anything negative–aside from a lack of speed–in his scouting report. His great work ethic and dedication to get better is what won him praise from the Cardinals brass as well as special consideration.
During the 2012 season, he struggled to find consistent playing time but managed a .294/.365/.463 slash line with a 1.4 WAR. Carpenter also played all over the field–a skill quite uncommon–which is a huge advantage for him since the Cardinals are a team loaded with talent.
His UZR had left a bit to be desired–a -2.1 infield, -3.1 outfield.
Struggles notwithstanding, he’s taken advantage of every opportunity given in the big leagues which lead him to become the starting second baseman for the Cardinals in 2013.
As I write, Carpenter is leading all MLB second baseman in WAR with a 4.1 ahead of likes of Dustin Pedroia, Jason Kipnis and Robinson Cano. The aforementioned trio garner the lion share of attention–rightfully so due to their consistent yearly production.
Regardless of what I know about them, given the choice, I’ll take Carpenter.
Sure I’m giving up the clutch and power of Cano, the spunk and smoothness of Pedroia, and the speed as well as pop of Kipnis.
Carpenter is generally outperforming them in almost all offensive aspects.
He leads all second basemen by the slimmest of margins in both batting average (.322) and wOBA (.385), is second in hits with 109, and leads in the oh-so-important wRC+ with 150.
Not bad for a guy who wasn’t expected to hit much higher than the league average as a full-time player.
He is also third with a .174 ISO–not bad for a guy who isn’t considered to be a power-type hitter, though his slugging is coming from 39 extra base hits (8 of which are home runs).
Last season, Carpenter made some minor adjustments to his stroke, including a weight-shift that allowed him to drive hits into the gaps more often.
Furthermore, his .393 OPB–second to Pedroia–has allowed him to lead his peers by a sizable margin in runs scored.
Carpenter doesn’t strike out much (13.9%) but doesn’t walk much either (9.1%).The low walk rate is likely due to his keen eye for the strike zone and his 90.3% contact rate.
Carpenter might not find himself at the top of the defensive metrics but he fields his position well enough to garner inclusion with the top-tier second baseman.
His defense has improved quite a bit in 2013, likely due to his getting comfortable at second base as well as spending some time at his ‘normal’ position at third. His UZR for infield is 4.1 along with having 4 DRS. It must also be said that Carpenter has made quite a few errors in the infield, though he’s made his fair share of great plays as well.
I personally believe that Carpenter is the best second baseman in all of MLB right now. Even if you don’t agree with that, you cannot confute that he doesn’t deserve to be considered among the elite in baseball in 2013.
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