Draft Day Showdown: Matt Carpenter vs. Martin Prado
Entering the 2014 fantasy baseball season one of the more highly sought after second basemen is Matt Carpenter of the Cardinals. Carpenter burst onto the fantasy scene last year by leading the league in runs scored (126) as he posted a .381 OBP leading off for the Cards. Carpenter achieved his stellar OBP by combining a 10 percent walk rate with a .318 batting average, and even without much power or speed, his skill set was enough to vault him into the upper tiers of fantasy second basemen.
This year prospective fantasy owners are betting on a productive follow-up season. While no one expects Carpenter will repeat his incredible number of runs scored, another season of a .300+ batting average and above average counting stats is a reasonable expectation as Carpenter enters his second season as a full-time starter.
The problem when it comes to drafting Matt Carpenter is the high draft pick required to obtain his services. Currently Carpenter is being drafted with the 51st pick according to NFBC ADP results, ahead of more established power/speed options such as Ian Kinsler (62), Ben Zobrist (71), and Brandon Phillips (99). I understand the thought process here, as owning older players whose best seasons are in the rear-view mirror is never fun. However, there is a player being taken on average with the 96th pick who is practically a carbon copy of Matt Carpenter.
Martin Prado combines an extremely low strikeout rate (9 percent for his career) with double digit home runs, which has led to many seasons very similar to the one Matt Carpenter just put up in 2013. The difference between the two players last year was the Cardinals lineup setting a MLB record for hitting with runners in scoring position which helped fuel Carpenters incredible run total, combined with Prado’s abnormal .288 BABIP which led to a .282 average. Prado has a career BABIP of .311 and a career line drive rate of over 20 percent which has made him a .293 hitter during his time in the big leagues. He has also averaged 12.6 home runs and 6 stolen bases over the past five seasons.
Don’t get me wrong, Matt Carpenter is a better option than Prado for 2014, but the players are too similar for there to be a four round gap in their value. Carpenter supported his .359 BABIP a season ago with an incredible 27.3 percent line drive rate, so predicting a large regression to the mean in his average on balls in play is not necessarily correct. In 114 games played in 2012 Carpenter had a similar .346 BABIP leading to a .294 average which was propped up by another impressive line drive rate of 23.8 percent. Another area Carpenter has an advantage over Prado is patience at the plate. For his career Prado has a 7 percent walk rate, while Carpenter has two straight seasons at 10 percent.
When you factor everything together, Matt Carpenter will be more valuable in 2014 most likely due to more runs scored and potentially a slightly higher batting average than Martin Prado. However, their overall lines should look incredibly similar. Both players make well above average contact and should have a batting average around .300 with low double digit home run totals and 3-5 stolen bases. While Matt Carpenter is a better option than Prado, there is just no way I can justify taking him between the 4th and 5th rounds when Martin Prado can be taken four rounds later.