ESPN believes that St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Tyler O’Neill has star potential. They are not wrong.
The emergence of Tyler O’Neill has taken the St. Louis Cardinals lineup to new heights. He is hitting a monstrous .282/.352/.539 with 29 home runs and 70 RBI and an .891 OPS, forming one of baseball’s best trios alongside Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt.
O’Neill, among others, are why the Cardinals are in the midst of an 11-game winning streak and on the verge of perhaps baseball’s most unlikely playoff berth. Now, O’Neill is being viewed as a potential star, with ESPN saying that while “I’m not going to call O’Neill a star, I will say this: He’s got some very star-ish qualities.”
Their reasoning, simply, is that he has the highest BABIP in baseball and that despite his BABIP luck, he has a xwOBA higher than his actual wOBA, and has hard-hit rates higher than Juan Soto and Shohei Ohtani. O’Neill, who is built like a bodybuilder and has triceps bigger than my head, is also in the 98th percentile in sprint speed and is a Gold Glove caliber outfielder.
Put together, O’Neill is a remarkably gifted player and athlete. That said, he does come with flaws. He has a 32 percent strikeout rate. He entered this season with a career .229 average across three seasons. Of course, he had only 450 combined plate appearances in those three years, so he is hurt by the small sample size of his 2022 season.
Yet, O’Neill has established himself as a key piece of the Cardinals’ foundation and the team would be smart to consider a contract extension this winter before he gets too expensive. It remains to be seen what a potential extension would look like or if it’s even possible, considering his agent Scott Boras prefers to have his clients establish their value on the open market, but Matt Graves of Redbird Rants believes an extension in the $60-65 million range makes sense.
If that’s what it takes to keep O’Neill in St. Louis for the next five seasons, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak should be all over it. Yes, of course there is risk in such a deal, but it’s a risk worth taking considering O’Neill is on the verge of stardom.