Coming into the 2017 season, I had already circled Jhonny Peralta as question mark. Over the past three years we have seen a decline in his production numbers, and with Diaz being the new shortstop Peralta was moved to third base. This move is what started a chain of events leading to Matt Adams playing left field. Peralta moved to third, Carpenter to first, and Matt Adams to left field. Somehow this move was made in the name of putting the best defense on the field. (No really, that’s the logic) With a slow offensive start to the season, the Cardinals need to change the lineup. That could mean putting Peralta on the bench.
I don’t know is on third:
In his first year with the Cardinals Jhonny slashed a 263/336/443 and drove in 75 RBI. That is solid production from a shortstop that can field his position rather well. The Cardinals believed they found their shortstop, and in 2015 Jhonny had yet another quality year slashing 275/334/411 and 71 RBI. Las year after coming off his thumb injury Peralta struggled at the plate, which allowed Jedd Gyorko to get some extended playing time at third base. Even though his numbers were considerably lower last year, it was hard to get a real gauge on if Peralta was in an aged decline or if he was still feeling the effects of his thumb injury.
In 2016 Peralta had slightly lower exit velocities, and a 46 point drop in his BABB. (Batting Average on Batted Balls) Even with that decline his ISO went from .167 to .185 and he was still hitting his career averages for how hard he was hitting the ball. So it was really a 50/50 split on if he was truly in decline or not.
This spring got fans a little excited as Peralta slashed 261/275/435 in 46 at bats. He had 6 doubles a triple and only 5 strikeouts. He had the look of someone that was ready to bounce back for the 2017 season. That is not exactly how his season has started. Peralta has started the season, looking just plain awful. In 17 at bats this season Jhonny has struck out 7 times, he has only 3 singles, and he has been over matched the plate. He is swinging at pitches far out of the strike zone, and hasn’t been walked in those 17 AB. I still believe Peralta will turn this season around and hit around a 250/305/415 slash, but it’s time to put Matt Carpenter back at third baas and use Peralta as backup infielder. The Cardinals are desperate for a true power bat in the lineup, and Matt Adams can be that player.
The question comes down to this: Is Jhonny Peralta or Matt Adams the better hitter to have in the lineup? Matt Adams came in to spring training in the best shape of his life and was hitting the ball to all fields. At 28 years of age Adams in one of his most prime years, but with the move of Peralta to third and Carpenter to first, Adams is struggling to find at bats. In his 14 plate appearances this year Adams is 2 for 11 with 3 walks. While that isn’t the greatest showing in the world, I believe Adams can and will have better numbers than Peralta in every offensive category this year. So reason number one for Carpenter playing third… LET ADAMS PLAY FIRST!
The second reason to move Carpenter to third is really about next year. This is the last year of Peralta’s 4-year contract, and I highly doubt the Cardinals resign him for next season. So who’s on third next year? The options at 3rd for next season aren’t that great. Options for 2018: Carpenter, DeJong, Garcia, Gyorko, Trade/Free Agent. From just looking at those names it seems as though Carpenter would get you the most offensive production at third. While I concede you are giving up a little defense with Carpenter at third, you are gaining defense with Adams at first. (Especially if he isn’t in left field) So would the Cardinals throw him back at third next season? Why Wait? For the love of all things Mike, play Adams at first!