TCN 2012 Cards Prospect #11: Matt Carpenter

The third baseman began with a solid spring training but was not called up in September. What is in store for him in 2012 and beyond?

The Cardinal Nation/ Player Profile
(including links to full 2011 and career stats)

2011 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
6 3B 11/26/1985 6-3 200 L R 2009 13

School: Texas Christian University

Selected 2011 stats

MEM 0.300 434 61 130 29 3 12 70 84 68 5 0.417 0.463 0.880
STL 0.067 15 0 1 1 0 0 0 4 4 0 0.263 0.133 0.396

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

CariocaCardinal (7): Matt Carpenter is a player I have ranked higher than my colleagues. My guess is much of that difference stems to how much emphasis is placed on his brief (15 AB's) major league career which was not a good performance. But not only do I totally discount that performance based on small sample size but also on his .091 BABIP as a major leaguer.

There are two other knocks on Carpenter that people often mention. First is his age. He has always been "old" for his league but given that he actually played in the major leagues at a younger age than either David Freese or Allen Craig, makes that concern seem dubious at best at this point. The other primary criticism of Carpenter his been his lack of power (particularly playing a position that normally requisites a power-hitting player). My rebuttal to that would be that in each of the last two years Carpenter has hit for a higher ISO SLG% than David Freese has in any of his major league seasons and I don't see anyone knocking his lack of power for the position. True, Freese did hit for a higher ISO SLG% while in the minors than Carpenter has so far but that may or may not hold true for Carpenter as a major leaguer.

Carpenter seems destined for Memphis again in 2012 unless he can add some positions such as middle infield or outfield to his repertoire. Even at Memphis, it would seem he would need to gain some versatility to get a full season of at-bats in since high draft prospect Zack Cox most likely will be in Memphis in 2012 as well and plays the same position.

Message board community (12): Carpenter was the community's 12th pick, a drop last year's fifth. I suspect that fall is due more to the quality of this year's prospect list than any slide from Mr. Carpenter. He received his first vote at #5 from my co-writer BobReed (who perhaps should be writing this summary!).

Much depends on judgments of Carpenter's defense. Baseball Prospectus indicated that he was 13 runs better than average in Triple-A defense last year (and had been above average the two years before, as well). If Carpenter's defense is that good, then he might well have a long future at the hot corner.

While there were concerns that Carpenter's power wasn't sufficient for third, last year's average OPS by National League third basemen was .707. Carpenter managed an OPS of .880 in Triple-A, and was better on the road (.973) than home (.790). Even if that is inflated by hitting against 4A pitching in some high altitude parks, league average hitting with plus D should earn him some serious playing time in the big leagues.

Carpenter's age (he turned 26 in November) works against him, but his mileage (he was drafted in 2009, so reached MLB just two years after turning pro) works for him. It seems like he could ride the Memphis/St. Louis shuttle again this year, but he could become very attractive trade bait if David Freese can stay healthy, and if Freese is injured, Carpenter is a nice insurance policy. It will be interesting to see how playing time is distributed between Carpenter and Cox. - Gagliano

Brian Walton (15): 2011 was an odd year for Carpenter. He went from being the offensive surprise of major league spring training camp - almost making the team out of Florida - to a September afterthought. In between, he continued to do what he does best – get on base.

I wonder if the organization accepts that as I felt Carpenter was miscast offensively with Memphis last season. While his walk total and resultant OBP were among the very best in the Pacific Coast League, he was consistently slotted into the fifth and sixth spots of the order, where run production is more valued. As a result, while his .417 OBP was fourth-best in the league, Carpenter finished tied for 65th in the PCL in runs scored.

While I was not concerned when Carpenter struggled in his brief St. Louis introduction, the decision of the organization to not call him up in September spoke volumes to me.

The road ahead does not look any easier. A younger, more heralded player is coming up fast behind him in Zack Cox. Like Carpenter, Cox only plays third base. A move of Carpenter to a corner outfield position might help him remain in the 2012 Redbirds lineup, but then again, Mark Hamilton, a better hitter, may be attempting the same kind of move off first base, yielding to Matt Adams.

All things considered, Cox' arrival might actually help Carpenter, I see Matt's best chance ahead may be to prove his versatility in 2012 and hope for an opening in St. Louis in 2013. I wonder even if David Freese was injured again if Carpenter would be given a shot ahead of Daniel Descalso, who has proven he can handle the hot corner defensively.

(As a relevant aside, it remains a mystery to me why an organization that values those who can play all over the field as much as this one, does not give more opportunities in the minors to those with that likely future role in the bigs. Carpenter being asked to make his outfield debut in a Major League spring training game baffles me almost as much as the reality that subsequently, he was given zero starts in Memphis' outfield over the entire 2011 season.)

Our 2012 top 40 countdown continues: To see the list of top Cardinals prospects announced to date and remaining article schedule, click here. You can also read each of the voters' philosophies in making their selections.

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