Fantasy Baseball: Matt Carpenter's Rebound Is for Real

Following a slow start, the Cardinals' leadoff hitter is once again proving himself as an elite fantasy performer.

Well, it took a little while, but it appears Matt Carpenter is all the way back.

In Tuesday's game against the Cleveland Indians, the St. Louis Cardinals' leadoff hitter went 5-for-5 with 2 home runs, a performance that put an exclamation point on what has been a remarkable recovery from a month-and-a-half-long slump to start the season. And it's clear that Carpenter owners are being rewarded for their patience.

Carpenter made a little history with his performance last night in St. Louis, too.

Anytime you can feature a stat that includes the great Tim Teufel, you have to do it.

With his five-hit performance last night, Carpenter is now slashing .259/.362/.511 with 15 home runs, 36 RBI and 45 runs scored, to go with a .371 wOBA and 136 wRC+ this year. How he's gotten to this point is simply remarkable.

Incredible Recovery

Through May 15, Carpenter could not have looked more lost, and this kind of turnaround was hard to see coming.

Thru 5/15 140 .140 .286 .272 .256 59 3
Since 5/16 172 .349 .424 .691 .464 199 12

Carpenter's stats have improved across the board, especially in some key peripheral areas.

Thru 5/1516.428.639.525.329.350.281.6
Since 5/1611.621.557.428.322.159.688.3

While his walk rate has gone down since the middle of May, Carpenter started making more contact, and harder contact at that. His strikeout rate also fell by seven points, and his hard-hit rate, as calculated by Fangraphs, went through the roof.

Carpenter's chase numbers have been relatively static this year, but he's doing more damage on pitches over the plate now. Up until May 15, he had swung at 50.2% of pitches in the strike zone, and made contact 81.6% of the time. Those numbers have increased to 59.6% and 88.3%, respectively, to this point. Combined with a lower walk rate, it's clear Carpenter has been a little more aggressive with pitches in the zone.

Track Record

Carpenter has been a really good offensive player for years now, and he has become even more of a fantasy threat as he's introduced the long ball as a part of his arsenal.

His 15 home runs put him on pace for 31 dingers this season, which would surpass his career-high of 28 established in 2015. In 2017, he hit 21 bombs, and followed that up with 23 a year ago. This comes after totals of 6, 11 and 8 in his first 3 seasons with the Cardinals, respectively.

The power is a big plus as Carpenter has always been a high on-base guy, with a career slash line of .276/.376/.464, a .364 wOBA and 132 wRC+.

As we've seen with Paul Goldschmidt this season, sometimes really great players get off to slow starts, and players with histories as long as theirs generally shouldn't be ignored, because they are bound to break out and get back on track.

Rest of Season Projections

It's clear that, if you own Carpenter, you're probably not trading him. And if you want Carpenter on your team, you're not going to be able to buy him on the cheap anymore.

Our projections like Carpenter's power surge to continue, with 17 more home runs the rest of the way, giving up 32 on the season. We project he'll hit .255 the rest of the way with a .870 OPS, 46 runs scored and 47 RBI with just over half the season remaining. It's highly likely he'll hit for a higher average than that, too, given his career average of .276, and in a lineup with productive players behind him, he's likely to pile up the runs.

While he struggles defensively at third base, wRC+ and OPS marks that rank sixth and fifth, respectively, among qualified players at the position, more than make up for his defensive issues. He's a top hitter at a position loaded with talent, which means unless you get blown away by an offer, or have depth at the position and can use him to fill another position of need, he's not leaving your roster anytime soon.