For the St. Louis Cardinals, there has been a ton of hope pumped into the stock of young Dylan Carlson. As the best outfield prospect the Cardinals have had in their system since Oscar Taveras, Carlson has a lot of pressure to pan out.
In his first year with the club, Carlson had 110 at-bats where he hit for a .200/.252/.364 slash line which is good for just a 65 wRC+ overall. However, this is misleading. Carlson came up and played every day for the first three weeks. After some initial bad luck, his confidence tanked and he was buried.
Thus, he was sent back down before being brought back on September 18. Over the final 12 games of the regular season, Carlson looked like a different hitter. He slashed .278/.325/.611 over that time and went into the playoffs as the team’s cleanup hitter. While Carlson doesn’t profile as a cleanup hitter and he certainly won’t be able to slug over .600, it was great to see him put together a good two weeks.
Even though Carlson was up for more than half the 2020 season, it was still just 35 games. For prospect purposes, he’s still a rookie. He was already ranked in the top 10 prospects overall by Baseball America, now he gets a nod in MLB Pipeline’s top 10 outfielders list.
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In Pipeline’s article, Carlson isn’t listed anywhere in their “Top Tools” section but is listed as the most likely Rookie of the Year candidate. This really speaks to how well-rounded Carlson’s game is. He won’t be elite in any one area, but if 2020 proved much it was that he could do it all.
Former Cardinal Randy Arozarena is on this list as well at No. 9, but it remains to be seen if he can keep up the performance he showed in a very small sample in 2020 moving forward. The Mariners, who both Kelenic and Rodriguez play for, are going to have a very impressive outfield really soon as both those players have ETAs in the next two years.
It may not seem like Carlson should have rookie status anymore, but heading into 2021 he is going to be a ROY candidate from the beginning of the season.
Carlson has the hype, he’s given a glimpse, but now it is time for him to show what he can do. Prospect rankings are fun, but they don’t guarantee anything.