The best second baseman in MLB right now is not Robinson Cano. Nor is it Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler, or Brandon Phillips.
No, that title would have to go to St. Louis Cardinals‘ Matt Carpenter, a relatively unheralded former top-15 organizational prospect according to Baseball America who now leads the field in OPS (.882), runs (52), wRC+ (150), fielding runs above average (5.7) and fWAR (3.4). No big deal, right?
Oh, and did I mention that he plays third base too?
As it turns out, the best second baseman in the game is not exclusively a second baseman at all, but instead a super-utility man who has played in both the infield and outfield in 2011. Even without that extra utility added to his game, however, Carpenter’s value to the NL Central-best Cardinals is still sky-high.
Originally intended to be a seat-warmer of sorts for Second Baseman of The Future (TM) Kolten Wong, not too much was expected of the 27-year-old in 2013 other than to provide a bat with solid plate discipline with the versatility to start in multiple positions as needed.
Instead, what they got as a followup to his 1.4 fWAR rookie year as a part time player is a dynamite leadoff hitter with a .432 OBP from the top of the order (.409 overall), the most valuable player on the team (sorry, Yadier Molina) and a veritable, but underrated breakout season from a player just entering his prime.
Unless your name happens to be Kolten Wong, just about everything is coming up roses in St. Louis these days.
Despite snapping an 18-game hitting streak that goes all the way back to May 21 on Tuesday, Carpenter continued to make himself a factor in the scoreboard, drawing a walk and scoring a run in the Cardinals’ 9-2 win over the New York Mets. After starting the season off with a relatively unassuming .263/.333/442 line, he has only continually turned up the heat, posting a .914 OPS through 123 PA and currently owns a 1.026 mark in June.
He’s making strong contact (27.5 percent line drives) at an incredible rate (90.5 percent) too, so if you’re thinking that the .362 BABIP is a fluke … you might want to reconsider.
No one is really quite sure how they keep doing it, but the Cardinals continue to excel at developing their league-best farm, and they continue to reap the results year after year. So while Carpenter might be surprising the baseball world at the moment, for the redbirds, it’s just business as usual.