Versatile fielder Matt Carpenter might be the most valued of all St. Louis Cardinals players in 2013. His ability to play multiple positions in the field will help the Cardinals adjust to any injuries that may occur this year.
A perfect example of his value is the current situation with David Freese starting the season on the disabled list.
Depending on how bad Freese’s back injury may turn out to be, we could see Carpenter — currently listed as the starting second baseman — filling in at third while he’s out. Carpenter has played 256 innings at third in two seasons. His UZR/150 is a decent 2.0 so you needn’t worry about a slip in defense at the hot corner; Freese has a career 0.4 UZR/150.
Having Carpenter move to third would allow Daniel Descalso to reclaim his spot at second base without disrupting much chemistry with the infielders.
The only position Carpenter is not accustomed to playing — besides catcher — is shortstop, which could also be handled by Descalso. That being said, if both players are occupied in secondary positions, prospect Kolten Wong is waiting in the wings for a chance to prove his worth in the majors at second base.
The outfield is a bit deeper than the infield as the hottest player for St. Louis this spring, Shane Robinson, is able to fill any holes should Jon Jay, Matt Holliday or Carlos Beltran become injured. Behind him is starting first baseman Allen Craig, who has a fair amount of outfield in his background. Should Craig be force to move to the outfield, Carpenter can again soften the blow to the infield by covering first as long as needed.
Regardless of where Carpenter plays, his offense will not be in question. He’s having a great spring with an OPS of .972 and hitting .345 in 67 plate appearances. Last season, he had a wOBA of .355 and an OPS of .365 in 340 plate appearances, so he’s well versed at getting on base.
While Carpenter might not be the team MVP in the accepted sports interpretation, he could end up being the MVP in the truest sense of the phrase.