With the recent demotion of 4th outfielder Tyler O’Neill, the St. Louis Cardinals may have a key outfield piece that dominates at the AAA level but cannot translate that success to the major league level.
Every St. Louis Cardinals player playing in the MLB has experienced their fair share of time in the minor leagues. In order to get promoted, they have to prove to the organization that they can not only play at the highest level but also offer that same level of play consistently. Often times, players will bounce back and forth between the major league club and the AAA affiliate because of struggles and slumps after being entrusted a spot on the 25-man MLB roster.
Making the jump from the Minors to the Majors can be extremely difficult for a young, and perhaps still maturing, ballplayer. Excelling in the Majors is no easy task. The MLB is a completely different world from the minor leagues.
The fact is if you don’t put up favorable numbers at the major leagues, you’ll be facing a trip back to the Minors. Players that hover in the middle ground of AAA and the Majors are considered AAAA players. Simply put, they are too good for the Minors but can’t seem to translate that same performance to the major leagues.
The soon to be 24-year-old Tyler O’Neill (birthday is June 22) may be a prime example. The power-hitting outfielder has shown flashes of excellent defense in all three outfield positions with his home run strength and legitimate power to all fields. He has all of the tools for today’s professional outfielder. The problem then you might ask?
His struggles could be due to a lack of consistent playing time. With Marcell Ozuna locking up left field for the time being coupled with the superb play of Dexter Fowler and Jose Martinez, there wasn’t a clear role for O’Neill on the team. Early in the season, O’Neill would only enter the game as a defensive replacement or as a pinch hitter for the then-struggling Ozuna.
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The slump in play along with the lack of consistent at-bats forced the organization to demote O’Neill to AAA Memphis. Since his return to AAA, Tyler O’Neill has absolutely crushed the baseball recording 7 home runs in just 13 games played. His 1.092 OPS and .358 OBP are also a testament to his patience at the plate and ability to get on base.
Assuming Ozuna walks in the offseason (he becomes a free agent after this season and may request a high AAV with a lot of years for security), O’Neill could be the Cardinal’s next choice in the left field position. But the Cardinals need to be sure O’Neill can maintain his success in the Minors in the Majors.
If the Cardinals think he isn’t able to step into an everyday starter’s workload/responsibility in left, they could pair him with other prospects for trade. He could be a valuable trade asset depending on how other teams value his power and defense. Guys like Adolis Garcia or Lane Thomas may be other intriguing options to fill Ozuna’s void in the 2020 season.
Although I am personally a fan of what Tyler O’Neill offers to the St. Louis Cardinals, I wouldn’t be opposed to trading him if he can’t seem to put it all together in the major leagues. Maybe I’m speaking too early in O’Neill’s development and the Cardinals see a future starter.
In any case, I’ll leave you all with a truly glorious Tyler O’Neill video. Perhaps a better display of O’Neill’s strength was showcased when he destroyed an acoustic guitar for fans at the ballpark.