despite some disappointing snubs from the major league club - like not being called up last september, despite being on the 40-man -- matt carpenter is pretty much doing whatever he can to make his way onto the roster. he's practicing in the outfield, he's practicing in the infield. he certainly seems like a pretty good fit for one of the bench spots: between furcal, greene, and descalso (and, yes, i suppose schumaker) the middle infield seems like it has good depth. while descalso could plausibly play third, in the event of injury to freese, a little more depth at third wouldn't hurt. and matt probably has more offensive upside than descalso, should a sub at first base be needed.
and the other lightweights competing for a spot (alex cora? shane robinson? blech!) don't seem to offer much upside. unless the club seriously intends to keep schumaker mostly in the infield, carpenter would seem to be the obvious choice for infield depth.
carpenter presents a remarkable minor league career, flaunting a astonishing on-base skill. but for one hiccup in Palm Beach in a half-season in 2009, carpenter has posted solid .400+ OBP performances at every level. he won the offensive player of the year award in 2010. any concerns that his performance was a feature of being a left-hander in sprigfield's ridiculously lefty-friendly stadium were abated when he followed up a .316/.412/.487 springfield line with a .302/.419/.465 line in the PCL in 2011. maybe he didn't look sharp in 19 PA's in the majors, but 19 PA's is a terrible way to measure anything (a double and four walks were the product of those PA's).
at age 26, carpenter probably doesn't need a lot more polish. while he's trying out other positions, they're all down the defensive spectrum from third base, suggesting he should be at least capable. needing more time in memphis really isn't pressing. should he end up back at memphis, zach cox will start pushing him for time at third base in memphis in short order. he can practice his turns in the corner outfield spots when he gets there.
relative to other options, he seems like a solid third base defender, with a pretty nice offensive upside. zips projects him for a .248/.342/.366 line. that would give him the fourth-best OBP on the team, relative to other ZIPS projections (just a hair ahead of yadi, and trailing holliday, berkman, and beltran). that line translates to a .317 wOBA. that makes him a better offensive option over descalso (.308), significantly better than schumaker (.302), komatsu (.305), greene (.305), shane robinson (.289), and way, way better than alex cora (.278). while some provide better defense (robinson, komatsu), carpenter is no slouch defensively, so any defensive drop-off is unlikely to alter the calculus significantly. it's hard to understand how carpenter could be left off the team, when he will likely hit better than some of the players sure to land on the roster (greene, descalso). still, stranger things have happened. hopefully, he can have another terrific spring training and creep into matheny's thoughts.
matheny, take the easy way and give in.
around the NL central, our fellow teams seem to have all gone reliever-mad. one cash-strapped team made room in future budgets for a reliever (the reds, with sean marshall), and another cash-strapped team looks to lock down their closer long-term (the brewers, with axford). neither reliever is a terrible option, but multi-year reliever contracts should be about the 19th priority on both teams to-do lists. in houston, the luhnow ship took a sudden tack towards the bizarre by returning brett myers to the closer role. the second-best paid player on the team next year, and a very decent starter, will almost certainly cut the number of innings he pitches in half, if not two-thirds, through the move.
pittsburgh, on the other hand, proves why it should never have eaten that cursed frogurt, or maybe it should have followed the lead of the commonwealth of pennsylvania and abandoned the cursed "h" in its name. the best paid pitcher on their team (per cot's, they're paying him $11m this year, and $8.5m next), newly acquired from the yankees, fractured his orbital in a freak bunting accident. were the eye injury not so concerning, it would be merely another humorous tally-mark on the list of pittsburghian baseball follies.it was not the news pirates fans were waiting for.
as this strange division-wide condition continues its reign, will the cubbies sign carlos marmol to a ten-year extension? will he spontaneously combust? i don't know, but i'd be nervous if i were him.