The St. Louis Cardinals are going to be without their left fielder for a while and now it’s time for the next man up to step up.
As most fans know by now, the St. Louis Cardinals are going to be without their left fielder, Marcell Ozuna, for a while after he fractured two fingers diving back into the first base bag last weekend.
While losing the best hitter on the team isn’t a good thing at all, I want to take this time to stress how important this opportunity is for Tyler O’Neill.
I have written it time and time again, but Tyler O’Neill has the potential to be an All-Star slugger in the Majors. It’s going to take a lot going right, but that’s definitely his ceiling. He could be what we all wanted Randall Grichuk to be, he just hasn’t ever gotten a chance. He has never had an MLB manager look him in the eyes and say, “you’re my left fielder.”
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How many players break out when they finally get a regular starting job? playing three days a week is never going to let him hit his potential.
In a recent article posted by Emmett McAuliffe on this site, he came to the conclusion that when the Cardinals no longer have the DH on Friday, the four main outfielders, (Jose Martinez, Dexter Fowler, Harrison Bader and O’Neill) will be in a bit of a conundrum and it will be tough to know how to play them. Emmett came to the conclusion that O’Neill should be the one to sit and Martinez should be in left field. I obviously disagree.
In my opinion, let Fowler and Bader platoon in center field like they were doing earlier this year. Jose Martinez has too good of a bat to not be hidden out in right field, and then O’Neill can have left field all for himself until Ozuna comes back in 6-8 weeks or whatever it is. He has to be able to get this playing time if the Cardinals have him in their plans for next year.
If Ozuna leaves, O’Neill, Lane Thomas, and Dylan Carlson will probably be the first ones up and they can’t go straight from the Minors to starting in the Majors without being able to get some experience first.
The only admission I will make is that if, after a month of play, O’Neill is still striking out at a 50% rate and isn’t putting up power numbers, then maybe he shouldn’t be out there every day. That decision just can’t be made after two weeks. The kid needs time to be out there and play first.
This is a big opportunity for O’Neill as well as a lot of pressure. This is the big leagues and O’Neill is a big-time prospect. At some point, the rubber meets the road and he must show up, I believe this is that time.