The St. Louis Cardinals have for several years now boasted an exciting farm system filled with power bats and rocket fastballs.
While those may be the highlights of the organization, there are many players with high-end ability who go relatively unnoticed.
Matt Carpenter was one of those guys. The key word there, in case you didn’t notice, is “was.”
When the Texas native, then 25, showed up for Spring Training in 2011, he turned a few heads with his work ethic and ability to competently handle many aspects of the game.
He could field multiple positions, hit for average and power and even had decent speed around the basepaths. There’s not much else to ask for from a player.
While he may not have super-stardom in his future, I expect a big year out of Matt Carpenter.
In 114 games in 2012, Cardinals fans got their first taste of the multi-tooled rookie, and if he has his way, they’ll be seeing a lot more of him in 2013.
The main reason is that for Carpenter, there is no such thing as an offseason.
At the end of this past season, his manager encouraged him to try his hand at another position—second base.
With the revolving door the team has seen at the position for the past two seasons, manager Mike Matheny is looking for some consistency up the middle in 2013.
While some have discounted the possibility, Carpenter seems to be the best fit until the arrival of Kolten Wong. Carpenter knew early on that getting into the big leagues would not be easy, so he did everything possible to make himself an invaluable asset.
A player who can fill in at the corners, in the outfield and can even catch in a bind is hard to replace. As he continues to advance through the ranks, Carpenter has the opportunity to add to that value.
Training under hitting coach John Mabry will be another positive development for the young utility player; in many ways, Carpenter is the Mabry of the next generation for the Cardinals - only better.
Mabry knows as well as anyone in the league what it means to be a versatile player. For Carpenter, there is no better teacher.
Not only is he capable of playing multiple positions and hitting from all over the batting order, he’s capable of making those changes day after day. That’s a rare trait in a sport where managers are more concerned about consistency for their players.
It’s hard to place a value on a player who can fill in wherever you need him at the drop of a hat.
As the “offseason” gives way to spring training, expect to see Carpenter take the field ready to earn his spot on the Cardinals' Opening Day roster.
He’s spent the entire winter prepping and taking reps as he works to become the second baseman the Cardinals have needed for quite some time. Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch detailed Carpenter’s new routine and what he, alongside his high school baseball coach father, is doing to get ready for his debut. It’s quite impressive.
While there’s no way to predict how well he will play at second base, one can safely bet that at the end of the day Matt Carpenter will have given it his all.