Closing Time: Matt Carpenter, still raking; Kelvin Herrera, still saving

Matt Carpenter started at second base for the Cardinals on Wednesday afternoon, his second appearance at the position this season. With another three starts at second (coming soon), Carpenter will be eligible at every non-pitching roster spot except short and catcher in Yahoo! leagues.

This fact, almost by itself, makes him an interesting name in fantasy circles, particularly if you’re involved in a league with limited bench spots.

But when you toss in the fact that Carpenter is lining missiles all over the yard, game after game after game, then we clearly have an actionable fantasy story.

Carpenter went 4-for-5 against the Reds on Wednesday with a homer, a double, two runs scored — his 10th and 11th this season — and two RBIs. He’s been a multi-hit machine in recent days (check the game log), raising his average to an even .400 and his OBP to .462.

The guy is scorching hot at the moment, yet widely available in our game.

We should note that nothing in Carpenter’s minor league resumé suggests he’ll give us a significant home run total — his single-season high was 13 dingers. (Wednesday’s homer was a wall-scraper, poorly played by this first-row fan…

Gotta stay in ready position, kid. Glove up. Don’t drift.) But Carpenter has been a tough out at every level, a career .299/.408/.450 hitter in the minors. He delivered a .294/.365/.463 slash for the Cards last season with 33 extra-base hits in 296 at-bats.

And, again, he’ll soon earn eligibility at a talent-scarce spot. Carpenter doesn’t need to be a 20-homer player to finish as top-12 fantasy second baseman. The man is the No. 2 hitter in a productive lineup, batting just ahead of Holliday, Craig and Beltran. In a healthy season, he’ll give us an easy 90 runs with low double-digit power and speed totals, plus a .300-ish average. Carpenter remains un-owned in over 40 percent of Yahoo! leagues despite his ridiculous fantasy utility. Let’s please try to bump that percentage up to a more reasonable level.

Before we hit the bullets, we should perhaps acknowledge this ongoing Matt Adams binge. He went 2-for-3 against Cincy on Wednesday with his second homer in as many days. Adams is now hitting .643 on the season, though he’s only appeared in four games. That team needs a DH in the worst way. You’d like to think that St. Louis could find 400-or-so at-bats for Adams, considering the age and injury risk on the team’s roster. He’s been a monster at every level thus far (stats here), hitting for power and average at every stop.

Kelvin Herrera might have claimed joint custody of the ninth inning in Kansas City, along with Greg Holland. Herrera successfully protected a three-run lead against the Twins, recording three Ks and working around a two-out double by Joe Mauer. Holland had pitched on Tuesday, earning a shaky save (1.0 IP, H, 0 R, 2 BB, 2 K, 27 pitches). Herrera clearly needs to be owned in any competitive league of respectable size. He throws a zillion miles an hour (OK, 98-100) with a nasty change. He's an asset, even when he's not finishing games. Get him where you can. Holland is likely Plan A, Herrera Plan B, Aaron Crow Plan C. These are all good plans.

AJ Pollock hit a pair of homers against Jonathan Sanchez in Arizona’s 10-2 win, driving in four runs in a 3-for-5 performance. Pollock needed the big day, as he’d gone 0-for-13 since opening day. The takeaway here is that no slump is so deep that Sanchez can’t get you right. Long term, we expect steals from Pollock, not substantial pop.

Did you need more Jason Bay in your life? Well, you’re probably gonna get it. Michael Saunders suffered a right shoulder injury of as-yet-unknown severity on Wednesday. For now, the team is calling it a sprain.

Take your time, Brian McCann, because Evan Gattis seems to have everything under control. The 26-year-old Braves catcher (with the remarkable backstory) homered again on Wednesday, his third blast of the season. He hit 18 homers and 20 doubles in the minors last season at two levels, and he did it in just 74 games. The power here is legit.

Also legit: This rocket off the bat of Juan Francisco. Whoa. That thing was smoked. I won’t make any promises about Francisco’s contributions in any category other than HRs, but he should be good for 20-plus bombs. And the total distance of those 20-something homers will be roughly seven miles.

Seattle catcher Jesus Montero entered Wednesday hitting .133 over his first 30 at-bats, hitless in his last 13 plate appearances. So that’s not great. Montero had a terrific spring for the Mariners (.400/.438/.711), and of course he held his own in the majors last year, in his age-22 season. He’s a former top prospect; there are plenty of reasons to be bullish about his long-term potential.

But the M’s have another well-regarded catching prospect in the high minors, and he’s blisteringly hot right now. Mike Zunino, 22, has homered in his last three games at Triple-A Tacoma, and he’s gone 9-for-21 over his first five games, with four homers and 16 RBIs. Keep him on the watch list. His call-up, whenever it happens, will be a notable fantasy event.

In other prospect news, Reds manager Dusty Baker recently offered this intel on Triple-A left-hander Tony Cingrani:

“He’s our first call-up if one of our starters goes down.”

You’ll want to file away Cingrani’s name for later use. He’s started two games for Louisville so far this year, piling up 21 Ks in just 12.1 innings, while issuing just two walks and three hits. Last year, he delivered a 1.73 ERA across two levels, striking out 172 batters over 146.0 frames. Cingrani made a cameo appearance with Cincinnati last season (9 Ks in 5.0 IP), so he’s in the player pool already, an easy stash.

And here’s just one last prospect blurb, because it’s … well. Um. Frightening. Cubs minor leaguer Jorge Soler reportedly attacked the Clearwater Threshers — ALL OF THEM — with a bat on Wednesday. So he seems fiery. Details here.

Joel Hanrahan destroyed your fantasy ratios for the week, giving up three hits, two walks and five earned runs in a blown save against the O's. The big blow was a monster-clearing three-run shot, hit by Manny Machado. And of course Chris Davis homered, too, because he's Chris [expletive] Davis.

Hanrahan isn't at risk of losing the ninth, according to his manager, so you don't get to take a victory lap after adding Andrew Bailey. Sorry.

Brandon League converted a messy save against the Pads, allowing three hits and two runs (one earned), throwing 34 pitches. I like to think that most of the Kenley Jansen owners out there already understand their guy is valuable for fantasy purposes, even in a non-closing role, thanks to the stellar ratios and silly K-rate. If he were to ever take over the ninth, Jansen would immediately rank as a top-three fantasy RP. No reason he should be available in any format — even a 6 or 8-teamer — yet he's still un-owned in nearly 30 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

One additional note from San Diego: Check out the defensive madness that went down on Wednesday, after Bud Black exhausted his supply of position players...

Maybe he was just trying to disguise his coverages. Not sure. In any case, you don't often see a first baseman shift from second to third and back to second, within a single inning.

"Hopefully we won't have to do it too often," Alonso later said, not sounding like a guy who expects to earn eligibility at second.

Chris Carter cleared the fence again for the SURGING ASTROS!, his third homer over the past two days. I think we're all basically on the same page with Carter: He has 30-homer, .230-average potential. If that helps you, then feel free to kick the tires. Carter is just nine-percent owned.

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