Corner shift part of Cardinals' infield evolution

With Carpenter taking over at 1B, club hopes to see improvement from Peralta at 3B

Corner shift part of Cardinals' infield evolution

ST. LOUIS -- This is the second of a six-part Around the Horn series that will take a position-by-position look at the Cardinals' projected starters and backup options heading into the 2017 season. After looking at the club's catching depth last week, we'll examine the corner infield options now.

Once fixtures together on the left side of the infield, Matt Carpenter and Jhonny Peralta are now projected to anchor the Cardinals from the corner spots. It's part of a shifting look to the Cardinals' infield, which, in the last 10 months, has unexpectedly evolved.

With the 2016 emergence of Aledmys Diaz and the organization's renewed commitment to Kolten Wong, the Cardinals were left to shuffle others to fill out their infield. For this to work, the Cardinals are leaning on Carpenter's flexibility.

After stints as an everyday second baseman and starting third baseman, Carpenter is poised to enter the season as the team's primary first baseman for the first time in his career. The position change was laid out to Carpenter as he prepared to head home for the winter so that he could do whatever necessary to prepare.

Fortunately, he's not starting from scratch. By necessity, Carpenter started 35 games at first last season and has played 94 games there over his career. It may be the best defensive fit, too. While Carpenter has posted a -10 Defensive Runs Saved at second base and a -8 DRS at third base in his career, his DRS at first base (-1) is closer to average.

Carpenter's fine barehanded play

Carpenter is not only changing his place on the field, however. He's also swapping spots in the batting order. With Dexter Fowler assuming the leadoff spot, Carpenter, who led the Cardinals with a .380 on-base percentage and was second to Diaz with a .505 slugging percentage in 2016, will move down in the order, likely to the three-hole.

Matt Adams, who reportedly reached a one-year, $2.8 million deal on Thursday in order to avoid arbitration, will back Carpenter up. Injuries and inconsistency have limited Adams to 111 starts at first over the last two seasons. He slashed .249/.309/.471 in 2016.

Across the diamond, the situation is a bit more fluid. Though the Cardinals have stated their intention to give Peralta the chance to start at third, there are questions about whether he'll stick.

Peralta's sliding stop

A spring thumb injury limited Peralta to 82 games in 2016 and cost him his spot at short. When Peralta returned to the field in June, he did so as a third baseman, a position he hadn't played regularly since 2009. His showing there was underwhelming in what was Peralta's age-34 season.

Uncertainty surrounding Peralta's production at the plate persists, as well. The thumb injury sapped his power last year, leaving Peralta with his lowest OPS (.715) since 2012.

The Cardinals have a ready backup, though, in Jedd Gyorko. Though the organization would prefer to use Gyorko as a utilityman who can fill in across the infield, the Cardinals would be comfortable leaning on him should they need another third-base option.

In his first season with the Cardinals, Gyorko led the club with 30 homers, 23 of which came after the All-Star break. The oddest part of his season is that, despite that show of power, Gyorko finished with only 59 RBIs.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.