The St. Louis Cardinals must allow Matt Carpenter to do what he does best: hit leadoff as a utility infielder.
It appears this is already the direction the St. Louis Cardinals are heading. After a breakout season in 2013 as the newfound leadoff hitter and second baseman, Carpenter has displayed flashes of that potential the previous four seasons but has yet to return to the heights of his first All-Star season.
For Carpenter, it all starts with consistency. He must hit leadoff. The numbers don’t lie; that’s where he is at his best. He acknowledges he prefers hitting leadoff. Say what you will about Carpenter, but he’s one of the hardest workers on the team, and if he wants to hit leadoff and produces when he does, then he deserves just that.
Consistency for Carpenter also involves bouncing around on the diamond rather than being entrenched at a certain position. He isn’t a gold glove fielder at any position on the infield, but he can still play a respectable third base, second base, and first base.
Carpenter should be a starter, but that doesn’t mean he has to be the third baseman or the first baseman. His bat is what plays, and his bat is what is most valuable to the team.
Carpenter has the ability to carry the Cardinals’ offense. He’s done it during stretches of seasons past, as well as in the 2013 and 2014 postseasons. He’s best as a tone-setter. With his ability to get on base at the top of the lineup, a strong middle of the order should make Carpenter even better.
Despite a “down” year in 2017, Carpenter still got on base at an excellent rate. He hit into some bad luck with a below-average batting average on balls in play. As long as the Cardinals let Carpenter be himself in 2018, he should soar to his potential.