What will Kerry Carpenter's role be for the Detroit Tigers in 2023?
Kerry Carpenter had a breakout season for the Detroit Tigers in 2022, both in the minors and in the majors. He hit 30 homers between Double-A and Triple-A before getting called up on Aug. 10. In 113 plate appearances at the big league level, Carpenter slashed .252/.310/.485 with six home runs and a 126 wRC+. He only had a 5.3% walk rate and struggled against left-handed pitching, but there's a chance he would have been the best qualified hitter on the team had he had more major league at-bats.
He doesn't really have a defensive home right now, although he was better than expected in the outfield during his limited time with the Tigers in 2022. He's a corner outfielder/DH at the moment. The problem is, the Detroit Tigers already have a lot of guys with that kind of defensive profile, and they have a ton of left-handed outfield bats (Austin Meadows, Akil Baddoo, Riley Greene, etc.).
This leaves Carpenter in a bit of a predicament. Does he have a spot on this team next year? If so, what will his role be?
Let me put this simply: if Carpenter continues to hit, they will find a spot for him. That's how it should work for any player. That's where he has the most value at the moment. As long as he hits, he'll get ABs. But again, where on the diamond does he play?
I've floated the idea of him and Miguel Cabrera platooning at DH before, with Carpenter playing against RHP and Miggy playing against lefties, and I still think that's the most realistic possibility. That's how they could get the most out of both players.
In 2022, Carpenter had a 140 wRC+ against RHP last year as opposed to just a 70 wRC+ against southpaws. Miggy had a 99 wRC+ with a walk rate of almost 11% against LHP while he had just a 72 wRC+ with a 5% walk rate against righties. It's clear that he sees the ball better against left-handed pitching at this point in his career. A Carpenter/Miggy platoon at DH makes a lot of sense.
My other option is just something I'm going to throw at the wall, though it probably won't stick. Maybe the Detroit Tigers could teach Carpenter how to play first base. It would give them another option in the event Spencer Torkelson flops again. It's not a very difficult position to learn, and A.J. Hinch loves him some positional versatility. It seems unlikely, but you never know.
The Detroit Tigers are trying to figure out what they have in their young players. Kerry Carpenter is one of them. Is he for real? We won't know until he gets more plate appearances under his belt.