St. Louis Cardinals: Inside Tyler O’Neill’s breakout season
By Evan Mead
The St. Louis Cardinals made the playoffs in large part because of Tyler O’Neill.
The St. Louis Cardinals just experienced one of Major League Baseball’s biggest and most mind-boggling runs. After a unbelievable 17-game win streak in September, they miraculously clinched the wild card spot after having just a 1 percent chance back in July. So the question is, how were the Cardinals able to achieve what many believed was unachievable?
There are multiple things that had to happen. First, the signings of Luis Garcia and T.J. McFarland, who have been among the most reliable pitchers. Next, acquiring Jon Lester, and J.A. Happ at the trade deadline. Finally, Tyler O’Neill’s turnaround.
Tyler O’Neill has had a incredible run this season and is a big part of the Cardinals success. After being traded from the Mariners to the Cardinals, he has found himself in a situation where he could’ve been moved. With that being said, after this season, he has locked himself into the outfield alongside Dylan Carlson and Harrison Bader.
O’Neill came into the league in 2018 with the Cardinals and appeared in 61 games, hitting .254/.303/.500 with nine home runs, 23 RBI and a 1.3 WAR. However, if you look at some of the more in-depth statistics, he had a 40.1 strikeout percentage along with a 4.9 walk percentage.
In 2019, it was a season that was quite unfortunate for him. After starting the season strong, he was at the mercy of being part of a strong outfield core.
In March/April, he appeared in 19 games, hitting .303 with one home run and four RBI. Not much happening early on, but he showed the ability to hit for average back then. After getting called back up in July, he was able to show what he could do, appearing in 23 games and hitting .301 with four home runs and 12 RBI.
2020 was a weird year. He appeared in 50 games, hitting .173/.261/.360 with seven home runs, 20 RBI and 0.5 WAR. He had a 27.4 strikeout percentage and a 9.6 walk percentage as well.
Looking back to the 2020 offseason, the Cardinals were reportedly trading for Nolan Arenado. I remember being with my friend when I mentioned they should move O’Neill to Colorado as a prime piece in the trade. Thank goodness I was wrong.
This year, O’Neill has played in 138 games, slashing .286/.352/.560 with 34 home runs, 80 RBI and 15 stolen bases. Looking at the advanced metrics he also finished this season with a 5.3 WAR, 31.3 strikeout percentage and a 7.1 walk percentage.
Where does he rank?
O’Neill took advantage of his opportunity this season. Next season there will be a lot of pressure on him to perform like he did this season. However, has he done good enough this year to submit himself as a top outfielder going into next season? If so, where does he rank?
According to FanGraphs rankings, Tyler O’Neill ranks as the sixth overall outfielder in baseball with Bryce Harper, Juan Soto, Bryan Reynolds, Starling Marte and Cedric Mullins ahead of him. So now lets look at where he ranks among hitters per category.
Despite a low walk percentage, he has been a top outfielder in every category. He’s been in MLB for multiple seasons now, and so is he just a one-year star or is he legit and be able to repeat next season? That’s going to be the question fans and insiders will be curious about. However, for now let’s just hope he’s got more in the tank as he looks to help the Cardinals win the World Series this year.