What the Dylan Carlson injury means for St. Louis Cardinals

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Dylan Carlson #3 of the St. Louis Cardinals runs the bases after hitting a solo home run during the first inning against the Kansas City Royals at Busch Stadium on August 8, 2021 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Scott Kane/Getty Images)
Dylan Carlson #3 of the St. Louis Cardinals runs the bases after hitting a solo home run during the first inning against the Kansas City Royals at Busch Stadium on August 8, 2021 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Scott Kane/Getty Images) /
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The St Louis Cardinals were surging in the playoff race, then were dealt with yet another blow: Dylan Carlson is going on the injured list.

The St. Louis Cardinals were finally starting to get healthy, with right-hander Jack Flaherty finally returning from the injured list. Then Kwang Hyun Kim and Wade LeBlanc went to the IL. The offense, however, had managed to stay healthy — until Tuesday night.

Outfielder Dylan Carlson, who was originally in Tuesday’s lineup against the Milwaukee Brewers, was scratched as he has been dealing with a wrist sprain. He last played on Aug. 12 against the Pittsburgh Pirates and had been working on the side, but evidently made little progress as he was placed on the IL.

Losing Carlson, just as the Cardinals were climbing their way to four games behind the San Diego Padres for the second wild card spot, is a devastating blow. He began the year as a strong Rookie of the Year candidate and while he hasn’t produced numbers indicative of that, he has still been a productive player, slashing .261/.341/.419 with 12 home runs and 46 RBI, including 24 doubles.

Replacing Carlson will be difficult for the Cardinals, but it would have been tougher earlier in the season when Tommy Edman, their everyday second baseman, was their best No. 4 outfielder. Now, Lars Nootbaar is expected to see more playing time with Carlson out. Nootbaar, who entered the season as a top-30 prospect for the Cardinals, has struggled in limited playing time in the majors, slashing .220/.298/.439 with two home runs and seven RBI.

While Nootbaar does present upside, considering he hit .308/.404/.496 in Triple-A this season, he is a sizable downgrade in the outfield from Carlson. He is a downgrade in every facet and with the Cardinals needing all hands on deck to catch the Padres and Cincinnati Reds for a wild card spot, impacts their already slim chances of advancing to the postseason, which FanGraphs placed at a mere 6.4 percent entering Wednesday.

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Perhaps Nootbaar surprises people and exceeds expectations. But in his first start in Carlson’s place on Tuesday, he went 0 for 3 against Brewers ace Corbin Burnes.

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