Cardinals: Dylan Carlson primed to be in Rookie of the Year conversation

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Dylan Carlson #3 of the St. Louis Cardinals can't get to solo home run ball hit by Jake Cronenworth #9 of the San Diego Padres during the eighth inning of Game Three of the National League Wild Card Series at PETCO Park on October 02, 2020 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Dylan Carlson #3 of the St. Louis Cardinals can't get to solo home run ball hit by Jake Cronenworth #9 of the San Diego Padres during the eighth inning of Game Three of the National League Wild Card Series at PETCO Park on October 02, 2020 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /
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Don’t look now, but Cardinals outfielder Dylan Carlson appears primed to be in the National League Rookie of the Year conversation.

It is early. Let’s get that out of the way. But from the way he looks and sounds, St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Dylan Carlson appears primed to be a prominent name in the National League Rookie of the Year conversation.

Carlson had an up-and-down first season. He was optioned to the alternate site after struggling at the plate and appearing overwhelmed early on. But once he was called back up, he resembled the player the Cardinals have long been touting as a foundational piece in their outfield.

That success translated to spring training in Jupiter, Fla. and led to a three-run homer in his first at-bat of the 2021 regular season. The pitch, placed right in Carlson’s wheelhouse, was described by Ben Fredrickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as a pitch that Carlson likely would have taken for a strike last season.

Yet, this season Carlson turned on it this season and mashed it into the bleachers. It’s exactly what Carlson sought to do this season. Plate discipline is important, of course, but he wants to be more aggressive at the plate. And in his first sampling this season, he showed what he can do when he does just that.

If he can continue to be that type of player, the Cardinals will look wise for handing the starting right field job to Carlson. He was a large reason why the team did not spend big money on a free-agent outfielder this winter.

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But not only could the team look smart for the decision, it could put Carlson squarely in the Rookie of the Year conversation. The competition will be stiff, with Pittsburgh Pirates slugger Ke’Bryan Hayes looming as a serious threat. And it could prove to be one of the most exciting races of the entire 162-game season.

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