Regression Candidate: Matt Carpenter
Each week I’ll be looking in to a regression candidate at each position. These are going to be more of a stat based, analytical deep dive on a specific player. The projections next to the player’s name are an average of THE BAT, ATC, Steamer, and ZIPS projection systems found on Fangraphs. NFBC ADP data is from the date range 2/01/2019-02/19/2019. Can Carp continue his 2018 power surge?
Matt Carpenter, STL (ADP 71): 640 PA, 93 R, 27 HR, 77 RBI, 4 SB, .254/.373/.480/.853
While he got off to a horrible start in 2018, Carpenter has been one of the toughest hitters to face over the last 4 years and it all starts with his OBP. He has a career mark of .377 with a 13.4% career walk rate. He doesn’t strike out too much and has good power if you make a mistake. His fantasy value in traditional formats has taken a bit of a hit in the last couple of years, though. He posted batting averages of .241 and .257 on ‘17 and ‘18, respectively, which were quite a bit lower than his .274 career batting average. Even so, he’s put up elite on base numbers and averaged 27 home runs per year in this 4 year span.
From looking at the raw numbers there appears to be a clear factor to point out when assessing his recent batting average dips. He had .274 and .291 BABIPs in the two previous seasons, which are well off his career number of .317. Carpenter was just suffering from some bad batted ball luck, right? Well, not exactly. Sure, he hits the ball hard enough, his 49% Hard% was #1 in the league in 2018, but teams began to shift on him because he has one of the highest Pull% in baseball. The range of BABIPs Carpenter put up in 2017 and 2018 are more of what to expect moving forward. Teams aren’t going to stop shifting against him; he pulls the ball too much.
The way that Carpenter combated the shift last year was to simply hit it over the wall, as he smoked a career high 36 bombs. As you might have guessed, those HR came with a career high 19.1% HR/FB%, a likely unsustainable rate. Let’s say that in 2019 that falls to his previous career high of 15.8% in 2015, which netted him 28 home runs. He hit about 6% more fly balls in 2018 than 2015 so it’s certainly reasonable that he reaches 30 HR this year.
With all that being said, it seems fairly obvious that Carpenter will regress in the HR category but I expect everything else to stay steady. He’s shifted over to 3B this year and is 33 years old so there’s a bit of risk involved, but overall Carpenter is a solid 5-7 round pick with more upside in OBP leagues.