As our own Justin Schultz wrote earlier today, the Brewers are taking a look at Mike Carp again this spring. The Brewers did this last spring, but somehow decided that going into April with Yuniesky Betancourt and Alex Gonzalez playing first would be a better idea. The past is the past though, and we are back to talking about Mike Carp in a new scenario. There’s a new crowd in the first base picture compromised of Juan Francisco, Mark Reynolds, Lyle Overbay, and Hunter Morris. The question is whether or not Carp would be a real improvement over any of these players individually, or if the improvement would be worth giving up a player in a trade.
To be perfectly clear, Mike Carp is no savior at first base. He’s never amassed more than 86 games in parts of five major league seasons. However, he is coming off his best season in the Majors. He posted a slash line of .296/.362/.523 with nine home runs. His line is supported by an unsustainable .385 BABIP, so regression is to be expected. His 2013 wRC+ of 139 would’ve ranked t-6th among qualified 1B (above names like Mike Napoli, Prince Fielder, and Adrian Gonzalez). Of course, the sample size for Carp was much smaller, and, like I stated earlier, his line was supported by a high BABIP.
Despite a great 2013 season, projection systems are not all in on Mike Carp. The projected wRC+ is between 105 and 107 with Fangraphs three major projection systems (Oliver, Steamer, and ZiPS). Dan Szymborski of ESPN was kind enough to run a ZiPS of Mike Carp in Milwaukee for me, and he saw a jump in his numbers from .258/.319/.422 to .269/.331/.481. The second slash line equated to a 114 OPS+ (ZiPS does not calculate wRC+ by itself). For comparison, ZiPS projects OPS+ of 123 for Mark Reynolds and 101 for Juan Francisco. So it appears that Carp wouldn’t be a big upgrade, but he may help solidify the strong side of the platoon.
Of course, if the Brewers can acquire Carp for next to nothing, he would be a welcome addition. If they have to give up anything of value for him, though, it may not be a worthwhile investment. This really comes down to how much confidence they have in Juan Francisco’s swing changes leading to better results. It is possible they could platoon Carp and Reynolds at 1B if they feel Francisco just won’t play well enough at 1B. In the end I think the Brewers will stand pat with Reynolds and Francisco at 1B, and that this will just be seen as due diligence come April.