Ranking the Ceilings of St. Louis Cardinals Outfielders
By Josh Jacobs
No. 1 Tyler O’Neill
After finishing 8th in the NL MVP voting and repeating as a Gold Glove winner in his first full (normal) season as the Cardinals left fielder, Tyler O’Neill proved to have an MVP-caliber ceiling for this Cardinals outfield.
After acquiring O’Neill in the Marco Gonzales trade in 2017, he has been the promising five tool player who Cardinals fans were waiting to see if he would put it all together. He boasts plus power, speed, and defensive abilities, but struggled to see consistent playing time due to a high strikeout rate and not enough use of that power.
In 2020, O’Neill slashed .173/.261/.360 across 50 games with 12 extra base hits while bringing in his first career Gold Glove. The season prior in 60 games, he slashed .262/.311/.411 with 11 extra-base hits. Going into 2021, he knew he needed to make a change to his approach at the plate, and those changes paid off big time.
In 2021, he slashed .286/.352/.560 with and 150 OPS+ and 52 extra-base hits and 80 RBI across 537 plate appearances while swiping 15 bags and maintaining the Gold Glove defense. He broke out as an elite level talent and middle of the order monster.
When talking to Brendan Schaeffer of KMOV4 back in September, Adam Wainwright had this to say about O’Neill’s development,
“We knew he was going to be good,” Wainwright said. “The front office has always said that they think this guy’s going to be the next 40/40 guy. And just being honest, I didn’t know if that was going to happen. There was a lot of swing-and-miss in his game. He had to change some of his swing patterns and some of his approach at the plate.
“What I see out of him now is a guy who is in the film room studying. He’s got a great idea of what the pitcher is trying to do. He’s got a great idea of what he’s trying to accomplish. He’s got a good approach. He knows his strengths. Man, that’s what’s called growing up in a clubhouse, right there. Growing up as a complete player. And that’s exactly what he is—a complete player.”
Staying healthy may be the biggest obstacle for O’Neill to reach his star potential. The Cardinals left fielder has been bitten by the injury bug on a few occasions, but has worked to slim down his massive build in recent years to prevent from some of those nagging injuries.
If O’Neill remains committed to refining his approach at the plate, we could be looking at a guy who could hit .270/.360/.570 with 40+ home runs per year. While 40 steals may be a bit much for a guy who hits in the middle of the order and needs to remain healthy, 20-30 bags a year could be within reach. Pair all of that with the elite defense he provides, and it is no wonder he has the highest ceiling in this Cardinals outfield.