The Cardinals went into this season with a ton of outfielders and no real answer on what to do with them. With Harrison Bader in centerfield and Dexter Fowler likely in right, the Cardinals must find their answer for left field. Tyler O’Neill and Dylan Carlson are the favorites, and with under a month until Opening Day, the Cardinals are hoping one of them separates themselves from the rest to become the left fielder in 2020. The Redbirds’ staff will keep their eye out in hopes they will find their option, but who will it be?
Experience or Youth?
Both Carlson and O’Neill would be great options who have tons of pop at the plate. O’Neill could get the edge because of his previous MLB experience. O’Neill has 293 regular-season plate appearances in the bigs while Carlson, the Cardinals number top prospect, has yet to appear. While experience overweighs youth, Carlson is such an intriguing young star. Cardinals have always leaned towards the side of experience – that’s why it’s difficult to see them starting Carlson.
Dylan Carlson is either making the Cardinals’ decision very tough or quite easy depending on your view of service time. In his impressive first week of spring, Carlson hit .500/.611/.786 with a 1.397 OPS in his first 14 at-bats. If he continues to put up these numbers the Cardinals may have no option but to start him.
Even with Carlson producing, Tyler O’Neill is still the safe bet to win the starting job. The Cardinals have shown in the past that they love experience over youth. O’Neill is definitely no slouch as well, he has such incredible power and an above-average outfield glove. If O’Neill can show that his plate discipline has gotten better, he is probably the better option right now. When O’Neill is clicking, he is a dangerous threat at the plate since he possesses the power to compliment Paul Goldschmidt’s bat. If he can improve on his strikeout rate (37.5%) he can be that cleanup hitter the Cardinals have always wanted, but if he continues to strike out at a high rate we may see the Carlson era sooner rather than later.
Cardinals Could Get Creative with Outfield Rotation
Could the Cardinals get creative and play Carlson in right? Why not put your three best outfielders on the field at the same time? The Cardinals have tons of options and could roll out an outfield of O’Neill, Bader, and Carlson. The benefit of having so many talented outfielders is the competition. If Dexter Fowler continues to underperform and if Bader can’t hit, the Cardinals have plenty of options to replace them with.
Whether or not Carlson gets the start on Opening Day, this will be an exciting season with the most hyped-up prospect since Albert Pujols. The Cardinals are hoping the rest of Spring Training answers their question of who will be the starting left fielder in 2020.
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