2016 Preview: Corner Infield

Matt Carpenter fielding

To commence the approaching season, the Cardinals will roll with some altercated options at their corner infield positions, most emphatically first base.

When Matt Adams tore his quadriceps in late May and required surgery, it became clear that the Cardinals would need some assistance in the task of filling his absence. A trade in July with the Cleveland Indians landed the Cardinals Brandon Moss, the first baseman they planned to use not only for the remainder of the ’15 season, but also for 2016. Moss gathered 132 at-bats in his couple of months in St. Louis, but his production was short of flattering.

A hip operation in October of 2014 is a plausible origin of Moss’s out-of-character offensive performance in the previous season. Being that he’ll be over a year removed from the surgery, a rebound from the lowered home run and RBI counts is certainly in play. During Spring Training, Moss will look to find his groove again. He and the Cardinals are very optimistic that he’ll do just that.

Nevertheless, Matt Adams is looking to rebound, too. In a scenario that he and Moss each dazzle in the exhibition season, it’s not out of consequence to predict a platoon situation at the first sack. Adams is deserving of a chance to prove his worth before first base is moved completely out of his reach.

Across the diamond over at the hot corner, it’s much easier to set a plan in stone. Third base will belong to Matt Carpenter. Carpenter has served as the team’s leadoff hitter since 2013; he has not disappointed. He suffered through an offensive slump that lasted through the months of May, June and July, but he ended the season as the team’s lone player with more than seventeen homers. Carpenter led the team in a handful of other offensive categories aside from long balls, including RBIs and slugging percentage. But with the increased power numbers, we’ve seen his on-base percentage drop.

Carpenter’s on-base percentage has tumbled a bit since his .392 mark in 2013, falling to .365 in 2015. However, his 2015 RBI and homerun counts increased immensely, respectively rising 25 and 20 spots from the ’14 season. For a St. Louis offense that scored 643 runs in the previous season, a mark that’s 94 runs lower than National League-leading Colorado, the Cardinals are willing to take the dip in on-base percentage for more runs.

Carpenter’s slump began in the middle of May, around the time when he missed a three-game series with extreme fatigue, symptoms including an accelerated heartrate and trouble sleeping. To ensure that his workload stays an acceptable size, the Cardinals prioritized adding a utility infielder this offseason. They did that with the acquisition of Jedd Gyorko, and he will take that role.

Along with either Moss or Adams — whichever one is not starting in a given game — and Gyorko, more corner infield depth comes through Stephen Piscotty, the projected daily right fielder. He received some time at first in ’15 and was a third baseman at Stanford. Even further depth comes via Matt Holliday, the leftfielder that has been taking reps at first base this winter own willingly, though the team does not seem too fond of having him play first at this time.

Thanks for reading.

Twitter: @Curtis_Josey

PC: Zimbio

 

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