If you’re looking for a player to bet on long term, you could do worse than Matt Carpenter. There is something about Matt Carpenter’s particular skill set that is somewhat underwhelming but still incredibly valuable.
The Cardinals leadoff man is fresh off a great season, where he ranked among the best hitters in the National League while learning a new position. Carpenter posted a .318/.392/.481 line and a season that ended up worth 7 Wins Above Replacement.
It is more the way that Carpenter goes about his business that might seem underwhelming. He doesn’t hit for a lot of power and his “no batting gloves” look is disarming. But no hitter managed more doubles than Carpenter last season as the Cards second baseman overtook Manny Machado during the seasons’ final weeks. He churned out hits and walks and scored more runs than anybody, even Mike Trout!
Carpenter makes contact – lots of it. Hard contact. He has the Cardinals line drives gene, whether he was born with it or they spliced it into genome in their run scoring foundry. Line drives falling out of bed. Line drives the other way and line drives pulled over the first baseman’s head. Line drives that fall for hits. Lots of hits. Even if he doesn’t record a hit, Matt Carpenter turns in terrific at bats, one after another. This is what a .300 hitter looks like, he said in his least condescending voice.
Returning to his rightful home at third base with a nice deal in his back pocket, Matt Carpenter begins this year ready to build on the incredible success of 2013. The Cardinals are betting on his quiet skills, betting on the hard work that turned him into a second baseman for a year will serve him well as he enters his thirties (next year).
The Cardinals are not afraid to give longish deals to older players and Carpenter is no different (still one year from arbitration, Carpenter celebrated his 28th birthday in November. Considering their standing as one of the two best organizations in baseball, we have to think they’re on to something.
Easy as it might be wonder if letting the then 31-year old walk in free agency, the Cardinals and Carpenter plan to be in business for years to come. A nice business to be in, on both sides of the counter.