The St. Louis Cardinals have two players from their World Series winning infield. That would be the team that won in 2011. Albert Pujols? Gone (thankfully). Skip Schumacher and Ryan Theriot? Both gone (also thankfully). Rafael Furcal? Shelved, possibly for good.
The mighty Redbirds have rebuilt around David Freese and Yadier Molina with guys like Allen Craig, Matt Carpenter and Pete Kozma. Wait. One of those names is not like the others. Kozma is a warm body who can play shortstop, maintain an active pulse and be the token â€œgrindyâ€ white guy on the roster. It wouldnâ€™t be St. Louis without a torchbearer for the mediocre white guy with grit. David Eckstein set the standard, Schumacher maintained it and now it looks like itâ€™s Kozmaâ€™s flag to waive. The world needs guys on the waiver wire, too.
Matt Carpenter has been a useful piece in fantasy baseball in 2013. He’s the Swiss army knife. He’ll somehow fit into any roster. He qualifies all over the diamond and heâ€™s constantly on base. He doesnâ€™t steal bases (career high of 11 in 2010…in Double-A) or hit for much power (career high .172 ISO…also in 2010…also in Double-A), but heâ€™s very good at not being out.
Carpenter owns a .332 actual batting average with a .368 BABIP. His BABIP is fueled by a 27.4% line drive rate and he owns a .350 career BABIP in 635 PAs. Heâ€™s perfectly capable of maintaining a higher than average BABIP as long as heâ€™s spraying line drives anywhere.
Where Carpenter gets interesting is his swing metrics. He doesnâ€™t swing at pitches outside the zone very often (23.6% O-swing %) and he rarely swings and misses (3.6% swinging strike % this year). He only swings at 56.8% of pitches in the strike zone, but heâ€™s making contact 96.6% of the time this year. Thatâ€™s what we call sound plate discipline.
Allen Craig is a competent real life first baseman and a competent fantasy first baseman. Heâ€™s not prime years Albert Pujols, but few people are. Heâ€™s still hitting and getting on base, but heâ€™s simply not hitting for the same power he has in the past.
Most of Craigâ€™s issues are HR:FB ratio driven. Craig posted HR:FB ratioâ€™s of 18.3% and 17.1% in the last two seasons. This year? His HR:FB ratio has plummeted to 6.8%. His fly ball rate has declined from 39.3% as a rookie in 2010 to 29.4% this year. This has helped Craigâ€™s batting average and pumped up his BABIP to a career high .355, but itâ€™s sapped his power. Itâ€™s hard to believe that Matt Carpenter has more homers (5) than Craig (4) at this point in the season.
Fantasy GMs that invested heavily in Craig will likely wind up disappointed this year. Heâ€™s not going to produce the kind of power that is useful in fantasy leagues. It could be worse though. You could have drafted Eric Hosmer.
David Freese has had a rough season. First, he hurt his back. Anyone who has ever had a back injury can tell you that bending over with a back injury is one of the least fun things a person can do. Now imagine trying to swing a bat with a back injury. Freese missed most of April with a back issue, then he struggled, then he hurt his thumb, then he started getting hits in every game and heâ€™s just now getting back to competent production.
Heâ€™s also seen his ISO drop from a career high .174 last year to a Descalso-esque .104 this year. Most of his issues can be traced to the injuries. Heâ€™s also a guy who is struggling in the HR:FB ratio department. His HR:FB ratio was at 20.0% last season. Freese has predictably regressed to 11.1%.
Oh and Freese is hitting a TON of balls on the ground for a guy with little speed. Freese owns a 56.3% ground ball rate. Thatâ€™s a lot of balls on the ground for a guy without great speed.
Freese also swings and misses a lot and doesnâ€™t make nearly enough contact for a guy who puts so many balls on the ground. Â He owns a 10.7% swinging strike % with a 76.9% contact %. Thatâ€™s more in line with a fly ball hitter than a guy putting a ton of baseballs on the carpet. Freese is a solid bet to maintain the batting average, but 2012â€™s power production is looking more and more like a mirage.
Carpenter is worth acquiring for those in need of batting average or run production, especially run production, but both Craig and Freese are probably better off on someone elseâ€™s roster in the short term.Â Both have generated buzz as a buy-low candidate, but there doesnâ€™t seem to be a lot of upside. Neither produce nearly enough power at a positions that demands it and it don’t look like they will. There’s a solid chance that we’ve seen their best power seasons already.