The St. Louis Cardinals will have to operate differently in 2020 than they have in any year recently. The biggest question? What to do with Dylan Carlson.
Earlier this summer, we speculated whether or not Dylan Carlson should start the year with the St. Louis Cardinals. Now, with just 10 days until the start of the season, the discussion can be made with a bit more context given what we know about rosters, service time, and the other specifics on the 2020 season.
After Carlson went 2-2 with a single and a double in the first televised intrasquad game of Summer Camp, it’s hard to find a fan out there who isn’t at least starting to catch Carlson fever.
The praise is high, the numbers in 2019 speak for themselves, and mob mentality is taking over. However, John Mozeliak never fails to keep fans anchored.
When Mo joined Dan McLaughlin on the broadcast of the game on Tuesday, Danny Mac asked him what he thought about the Carlson situation as of right now. To many fans’ dismay, Mo got as close to saying Carlson wasn’t going to start the year with the team as you could get without actually saying it.
Citing first how impressive Carlson has been in camp, Mo went on to say that they are also excited to see Tyler O’Neill and Lane Thomas. While Mo finished by saying that the team still has more than a week to make their decision, but it doesn’t make sense to start the clock on a guy when he isn’t going to get playing time.
To be honest, Mo is right. It doesn’t make sense to start Carlson’s clock, and I agree.
One of the most necessary and important outcomes of the 2020 season is that the team absolutely needs to find out what they have in Tyler O’Neill and Lane Thomas. That goes beyond winning this year and longterm is a necessary pursuit. As much as fans don’t want to hear it, if Carlson is starting in the MLB all year, the team gets nowhere with that pursuit.
There is plenty to argue in terms of Carlson’s place on the depth chart. Could he come up outperform Lane Thomas and Tyler O’Neill if all of them started every day? Maybe, but the team isn’t going to bury Harrison Bader and Dexter Fowler on the bench. It stinks, but it’s what is best for the health of the team.
The Cardinals also get another whole year of Carlson at the end of his contract if they leave him down for just seven days in 2020. The Cardinals have never been a service-time manipulating team, but this benefit of starting Carlson at satellite camp can’t be ignored.
Manager Mike Shildt is definitely a fan of Carlson.
And that’s why it is so hard to make the right choice off the bat with Carlson. Nobody has offered anything but praise for the 21-year-old. He’s a “student of the game” and works really hard. He is probably going to be a really good player at the MLB level too. Mo knows exactly how good Carlson is, he just can’t let that get in the way of the team’s future with other players.
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The combo of the team needing to know what they have (short season or otherwise), as well as the inherent benefit the team gets from leaving him in the minors for a week, and add to it that Carlson isn’t on the 40-man yet makes the right choice clear: Carlson has to start off the 30-man.
Just because Carlson doesn’t start the year on the active roster doesn’t mean he couldn’t finish on it. Even in a 60-game season, injuries will happen. Even with how careful it seems St. Louis Cardinals players are being, people are going to get sick. We don’t want anyone to, but the likelihood of it happening is certainly a nonzero number.
Again, Carlson is just 21, and I’d still bet that he sees the MLB in 2020, I just think it’s best for the team if he starts off the active roster.
It’s not a popular opinion at all, but starting the year with a mix of Tyler O’Neill and Lane Thomas in right field is the best thing for the team. Like eating your vegetables before dessert, it’s healthy for you, and the dessert will still be there waiting for you. And hey, you might just enjoy the vegetables too.