Matt Carpenter is back at the position he played the most in his minor-league career. He should provide more range than departed David Freese at third, although Freese probably has the stronger throwing arm. With Jhonny Peralta, who has modest range, at shortstop, a third baseman with more range could negate any lack of coverage Peralta might have.
Some people don’t see Carpenter as a power hitter, but that would be discounting his 73 extra-base hits, one of the highest marks in baseball last year. The lefthanded hitter has shown he can drive in runs, knocking in 78 last year, although he hit mostly from the leadoff spot, especially in the second half of the season. Though he has no basestealing ability, Carpenter still could be labeled an ideal leadoff man because of his .392 on-base percentage. Carpenter also sees as many pitches as any hitter in the majors, which can help subsequent hitters in the lineup after Carpenter opens the game.
But Carpenter is the one hitter the Cardinals have who could bat anywhere in the lineup, including third or fourth. And probably will wind up as a middle-of-the-order hitter before too long. With a six-year contract in tow, he augurs to be one of the faces of the franchise for many years to come, and his first All-Star nomination last year isn’t likely to be his last. He isn’t as young as one might think. A five-year player in college at TCU, Carpenter already is 28.
Although in just his second season as a regular, Carpenter already has become one of the leaders in the clubhouse, and players both young and old took note of his work ethic as he arrived at the spring training complex when it was still dark, even ahead of that noted early riser, manager Mike Matheny.