St. Louis Cardinals: The ups and downs of the outfield

Lane Thomas #35 of the St. Louis Cardinals in action against the Miami Marlins in a spring training game at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium on March 18, 2021 in Jupiter, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
Lane Thomas #35 of the St. Louis Cardinals in action against the Miami Marlins in a spring training game at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium on March 18, 2021 in Jupiter, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

The St. Louis Cardinals have had a rough go in the outfield thus far into the season, but you can’t discount them out yet. However, they are making roster moves out there.

The St. Louis Cardinals started this season looking as though they were finally going to have the trio to the stars that they have been looking for in the outfield. Cardinals fans were excited to see what this season would hold after the acquisition of Nolan Arenado filled a big void on the roster.

They were looking to finally have a roster that can compete and get them back to the World Series this season. With Gold Glove winner Tyler O’Neill in left field, top prospect Dylan Carlson in right field, and Harrison Bader in the center, they would have three Gold Glove candidates in the outfield to start the season.

Halfway through spring training, fans were notified about a nagging injury to Harrison Bader that would sideline him to start the 2021 season. With the loss of Bader, it opened a lot of competition in the outfield for guys like Justin Williams, Austin Dean, Lane Thomas, and Scott Hurst. With a hot start to his spring training, the most likely candidate was Lane Thomas, but after a very rough finish, he was optioned to the Alternate Training Site to start the season.

The Cardinals decided to have an Opening Day outfield consisting of O’Neill, Carlson, and Williams with Austin Dean on the bench. Dean had a terrific spring, finishing with a .297 average, one home run, seven runs batted in, and a .432 slug. He was making very solid contact this spring training and definitely deserved the chance to perform as the Cardinals try to fill the void of Harrison Bader in the outfield.

The Cardinals on top of keeping Austin Dean on the Opening Day roster, they also decided to give Justin Williams the shot as well. Looking at the statistical performances of Lane Thomas, and Justin Williams you could make a case for both, but Williams ended up getting the nod from Shildt. Williams the big left handed bat off the bench was found appealing to the Cardinals that ultimately lead to him beating out Lane Thomas. However, it took no time for Thomas to get his shot this season.

St. Louis Cardinals
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN – SEPTEMBER 16: Tyler O’Neill #41 of the St. Louis Cardinals hits a sacrifice fly in the fourth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers during game one of a doubleheader at Miller Park on September 16, 2020 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

The Cardinals were showing signs that they were going to have a great outfield this season after a good start from O’Neill and Carlson to open the season. After a quick decline from O’Neil due to a very high strikeout ratio, he wasn’t offering the Cardinals very much upside in the outfield. After finding himself on the IL, Lane Thomas was recalled from the Alternate Training Site.

Thomas finally got a chance to play this week and it was a very disappointing performance. After showing he wasn’t able to cover the ground that is needed to in the outfield. He made some very poor reads on the ball, and one resulted in an error. His chance in the outfield was short-lived as he was optioned back down to the Alternate Training Site for Scott Hurst.

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Scott Hurst has never even played a game at the triple AAA level and didn’t even perform when at the AA level. In 2019 he played in 63 games in Springfield in which he hit .191 with one home run, 13 runs batted in, and slugged .277. After a spring training in which he caught the coaching staff’s eyes, he has now replaced Thomas on the roster until Bader and O’Neill come back. Hurst has excellent speed and has the ability to be a contact bat for the Redbirds on the bench.