Matt Carpenter Needs to Be on Your Fantasy Baseball Team
Many folks will surmise that your fantasy baseball draft is won or lost with your picks in the first few rounds. Hit on those and you have a great chance at a title. Miss on a couple early-round picks and your season is doomed.
January is when the first mock drafts start to roll around, and that's really when titles are won.
It's still early, but it looks like Matt Carpenter is shaping up as one of the better mid-round value picks for 2017.
In 2015, Carpenter put up stud numbers -- 28
As a result, Carpenter is currently ranked 76th overall in FantasyPros consensus ranks, which is a seventh-round pick in standard 12-team mixed leagues. That's entrirely too low for a player of Carpenter's ilk, and here's why.
A Tough Break
Looking back at industry data prior to 2016, Carpenter had risen up draft boards thanks to his big 2015 season. Using NFBC average draft position (ADP) data, Carpenter was ranked 72nd overall (last pick of the sixth round).
But in 2016, disaster struck -- both for Carpenter and the St. Louis Cardinals. Carpenter missed time with an oblique injury, and while he was able to return, the Cardinals finished a distant 17.5 games behind the Chicago Cubs.
Carpenter, meanwhile, lagged pretty far behind his 2015 season as far as counting stats go. He hit 21 home runs, scored 81 runs and drove in 68.
While the injury was a huge factor, he wasn't exactly setting the world on fire down the stretch once he returned to the field. Carpenter posted a wRC+ of 135 for the season, but over the second half, that mark dropped down to 93, including a paltry 89 wRC+ over 100 plate appearances in August.
Better Than It Seemed
His poor -- by his standards -- second half made it easy to forget how good Carpenter was before the injury. Here are the top-five hitters ranked by wRC+ in the first half of 2016, and just for fun, their respective OPS marks.
There's a few things which immediately jump out from this table. First, David Ortiz really did have an absolutely absurd final campaign -- and overall career, for that matter. Secondly, Carpenter was one of the best hitters in the league in the first half. Unless you took him a lot earlier than the NFBC data suggests, he was providing a pretty great value for you.
As a whole, Carpenter's 2016, outside of the missed playing time and relatively poor production post-injury, was outstanding. He posted his best walk rate at 14.3% while logging a 19.1% strikeout rate, which was down 3.6% from his 2015 clip. Carpenter also racked up his best ISO (.235) and his second best on-base percentage (.380).
Perhaps the biggest reason Carpenter's power (and fantasy value) looks like it's here to stay is his batted-ball profile. Prior to 2015, Carpenter had posted a ground-ball rate around 40% in each of his first three full seasons, and that led to a previous career-best home run tally of 11 dingers (2013). But in 2015, Carpenter drastically changed his batted-ball profile by trading grounders (-10.3%) for line drives (+4.7%) and fly balls (+6.5%).
|Ground-Ball Rate||Fly-Ball Rate||Hard-Hit Rate|
Carpenter virtually repeated those numbers in 2016, even adding a few more fly balls (+1.5%). On top of all of this, Carpenter has posted the best hard-hit rate of his career in back-to-back seasons -- 37% in 2015, followed by a 41.9% hard-hit rate in 2016. Making hard contact while hitting a lot of fly balls is pretty much the ideal recipe for power.
Carpenter's counting stats were hampered by a midseason injury, and while he never really got going once he returned to health, his overall rate stats for the year -- especially from the first half -- are really good.
After flashing new power in 2015, Carpenter maintained his fly-ball rate and hard-hit rate last year, proving his pop is no fluke.
In the first half of 2016, Carpenter was a top-end fantasy asset, and he does just about everything you could ask for from a hitter. He gets on base at a high rate, hits for good power and his place in the heart of a solid Cardinals lineup is a boost for his counting stats. Given all that, his current ranking as the 76th overall player doesn't make much sense, making Carpenter a draft-day steal.