Detroit Tigers outfielder Kerry Carpenter has been interesting.
The Detroit Tigers have seemingly "hit" on a 19th-round draft pick in the form of Kerry Carpenter, who came to the team by way of the 2019 MLB Draft from Virginia Tech. It was a quick rise from the college bat who made his MLB debut during the 2022 season.
The Detroit Tigers must be happy with how things have gone from Carpenter, even in a more limited sample size. Carpenter has gotten the job done, showing some traits to like as well as some things to be a little concerned about.
In 2022, Carpenter debuted with 31 games played, accumulating 113 plate appearances. He slashed .252/.310/.485 with four doubles, a triple, and six home runs with 10 RBI. The concerning part was the six walks to 32 strikeouts that he posted.
In 2023, Carpenter has had to deal with some injury issues after crashing into the wall and robbing a home run. But he has since returned and has played in 51 games overall. Carpenter has hit .277/.335/.536 with eight doubles, a triple, and 11 home runs, with 28 RBI over 166 at-bats.
Carpenter is a left-handed bat with tons of juice in the swing, driving the ball in the air well. Looking at his swing, he can drive the ball well and elevate as his swing sets up to do so. He's got the juice, the issue is that his swing has been a bit "one-plane" at times, but he has made plenty of strides in that regard, being a more complete hitter.
Speaking to the swing being one plane, he's engineered to hunt the pitches up in the zone and drive them in the air. His best contact will come in the upper half of the zone, working uphill and elevating. If you fancy yourself a blue/red zone breakdown, head over to Baseball Savant and take a look at Carpenter's zone-by-zone breakdown for multiple metrics.
Disclaimer: I do not believe looking at these and noting colors in the boxes being the only part of the story. Comparing red vs. blue boxes similar to comparing the players' red vs. blue dots is a horrible way to evaluate a player. There's way more to the story.
Looking at the zone-by-zone breakdown of home runs, there's a clear-cut trend of Carpenter annihilating the balls up in the zone, belt-high or above. Similarly, looking at BABIP, you can see that when Carpenter does get the bat on the ball, he's going to have success in that upper third and above, as well as the inner third up or down.
It's interesting to compare this with his swing mechanics since they match up. In this case, the stats and eye test blends well. He's known to have the juice in the swing, but looking at some of the breakdowns it shows that he can cover the zone away, even if the home run numbers are not there. But that's to be expected. Carpenter has shown the ability to attack the upper half still and drive them the other way for hits.
For Carpenter, the lower half of the zone and below is chalked up to a lot of chases. His swings and, misses and strikeouts tend to be the opposite of the home runs, away and low or just low & below the zone. Speaking to some of the punchout numbers being higher than some would like at times.
Putting all of this together tells me a few things. His approach is easily to spit on the pitches low and hunt fastballs up or really just anything he can get the barrel up to. For the Tigers, he's settled in with some pop in the bat; it will be interesting to see if he can continue to find this success hunting up, adjusting elsewhere, and cutting down on whiffs low.
He's blown my expectations out of the water in the chances he has had, so it will be interesting to see if he can continue to tap into success.