Matt Carpenter has been a big part of the St. Louis Cardinals’ roster in the past. However, John Nogowski’s play this spring is presenting another option if Carpenter’s struggles continue.
Matt Carpenter’s decline in the past two seasons has been one of the most baffling things in recent St. Louis Cardinals‘ history. After finishing top 10 in MVP voting in 2018, Carpenter has a combined .216/.332/.372 slash line over the past two seasons.
At just 35 years old now, Carpenter’s aging curve has sloped steeper than expected and he now doesn’t have a starting role. While he came into spring determined to win the second base job from Tommy Edman, things haven’t gone well.
While Edman is batting leadoff most games and has 10 hits in 29 at-bats, Carpenter has only hit a double in 25 at-bats. His seven walks are keeping his on-base percentage at .250, but it’s been an overall awful showing.
With the playing time Carpenter is likely going to get this season, there is almost no chance that he plays enough to have his option vest for the 2022 season. This will almost surely be his final season under contract. The Cardinals have shown in the past that in situations like these, they won’t give special treatment.
Things might be different given the player at hand, but Carpenter isn’t doing anything to help his case out, not for lack of effort.
When the debate for second base was going on, the option for Carpenter was either second base or a bench spot. The bench is going to be the most likely spot for him to start the year, but now, the Cardinals look like they have an option on Carpenter’s heels.
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John Nogowski has been on fire this spring and it won’t be too long until he plays his way onto the roster.
The 28-year-old first baseman has been in the Minors since 2014 and finally debuted last year. He’s played in the Dominican Winter League each of the past two seasons and is likely the biggest reason why the team decided against bringing back Rangel Ravelo.
This spring, he’s 9 for 23 with a team-leading 10 RBI. Like Carpenter, he has walked seven times but has struck out just three times. This spring has been a perfect microcosm of the player Nogowski is when he’s at his best. He doesn’t hit for much power, but he doesn’t strike out either. He’s a hit-first first baseman, a rare type of player to see.
At 28, Nogowski is not really a spring chicken anymore, but he’s shown plenty to get another chance at the major league level. It’s going to be difficult for him to make the team out of spring training, but if Carpenter’s struggles continue into the regular season, Nogowski could see some time in the bigs.
I hesitate to say anything concrete about how the Cardinals might handle Carpenter if he continues to struggle in the regular season because the Cardinals haven’t had a situation exactly like Carpenter’s before. He’s meant so much to the team during his time here, but they can’t allow him to stay on the roster if he’s hitting like he has this spring.
Nogowski will find his way onto the MLB roster at some point, even if it isn’t in place of Carpenter. In the meantime, it’s important to note that the Cardinals are a better team with Carpenter. He’s struggling right now, but he can carry the team when he’s hot. The question is just whether or not he still has that left in the tank.