Fantasy Baseball

Had to Have Him: Matt Carpenter

From approximately mid-January until Saturday, I was scheming away, trying to ensure that I snagged Matt Carpenter in my main/home league.  Before I delve too deeply, I will very briefly provide you with some background on the league.  It is a 6×6 H2H categories league with the traditional categories, however, QS replacing Ws plus OPS and K/BB acting the respective sixth categories.  As I will explain below, the format, in particular, drove my desire to own Carpenter.

Before the draft, I traded away keeper asset excess to move up one time and traded back in the second round to move up again from the fifth to the fourth round to ensure that I would get the player I want.  Picking at the turn, I believed it was vital to be aggressive with the players that I coveted because if I passed, I had a long wait until I picked again.  Plus, I knew my room and that a certain other owner also coveted Carpenter.  Today, I will tell you why Matt Carpenter was a top target and why I moved heaven and earth to make sure he was on my team.

In 2015, Carpenter broke out from a power perspective, launching 28 homers and with an ISO of .233 – nearly 70 points higher than his previous career high.  Although there was clear effort to tap into his power, as evidenced by Carpenter’s own statements on the matter and in his batted ball profile, fantasy players were skeptical that he could repeat 2015’s power feat because it was such a huge outlier compared with his prior years.

When you look at his final line, many detractors would claim victory as Carpenter hit just 21 homers.  However, lazy analysis of that sort is where the more successful fantasy players can find their value.  In terms of skill, Carpenter walked more (career high 14.3% BB%) and struck out less than in 2015 (19.1% to 22.7%).  With 21 homers in 129 games, Carpenter was not far off his prior year’s pace in terms of his actual results, had he played a full year without consideration for anything else, he probably would have been around 25 homers.  Of course, there were some extenuating circumstances that limited Carpenter, which is why I believe his 2016 results distort his true upside.

In July last year, Carpenter suffered an oblique injury, which kept him out for a month.  Upon return, he was simply not the same hitter.  However, it is not his dreadful second half – .226/.316/.4410 triple-slash – that interests me.  He was a hurt player trying to play through an injury.  I am looking at what he did when he was healthy.  In his 78 first half games, Carpenter was triple-slashing .298/.420/.568 and had 14 HRs, 56 runs and 53 RBI.  Carpenter’s .988 first half OPS was 5th in MLB.  The names in front of Carpenter – David Ortiz, Josh Donaldson, Anthony Rizzo, and Mike Trout.  That is the sort of company that you want your players to keep.  Trout, Rizzo and Donaldson are no-doubt first round talents.

On the plus side, there was nothing incredibly fluky about what Carpenter was doing.  He was sporting a 16.5% BB% with a 17.4% K% so the plate discipline was not an issue.  His BABIP was .335, only slightly above his career average of .329.  Plus, in the first half, Carpenter had a line drive percentage of 27.2% (4th highest in MLB), made Hart Contact 44.5% of the time (2nd highest in MLB) and had a Soft Contact% of just 7.4% (lowest in MLB by nearly 3%).

If Matt Carpenter kept up that pace, and there is nothing to indicate that there was regression coming his way, then he would’ve been Anthony Rizzo last year.  Scratch that.  Carpenter would have been Anthony Rizzo with eligibility at 2B and 3B in addition to 1B.  I firmly believe that Carpenter has made the sort of changes that I mentioned in my article on Brandon Belt (another player that I secured), which is that last year in the first half, he put it all together.  The power, the plate discipline, the line drives and was on his way to being one of the best, most complete hitters in baseball.  With a return to health, I see no reason why he won’t be able to put the whole package together again in 2017 – this time, hopefully, for a full year.  This is why, I had to have Matt Carpenter.

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