St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Dylan Carlson is off to a really concerning start in 2022. Could he be optioned to Triple-A if it continue?
Coming off a strong 2021 season, the expectation among people inside and outside the St. Louis Cardinals organization was that Dylan Carlson was a breakout candidate in 2022. His numbers – .266/.343/.437 with 18 home runs and 65 RBI – backed up that belief.
The Cardinals could not have asked for a worse start for Carlson, as he is hitting .175/.227/.238 with zero home runs and four RBI with a .465 OPS in 88 plate appearances. The underlying numbers paint an even more unflattering picture.
Via Baseball Savant, he ranks in the seventh percentile in average exit velocity, in the third percentile in xwOBA, in the first percentile in barrel percentage, in the 55th percentile in Whiff Percentile, in the 34th percentile in Outs Above Average, in the 13th percentile in Max Exit Velocity, in the 11th percentile in xBA, in the 78th percentile in strikeout percentage, in the 45th percentile in Chase Rate, in the 45th percentile in Outfielder Jump, in the third percentile in Hard Hit Percentage, in the second percentile in xSLG and in the 22nd percentile in walk percentage.
To summarize: Yikes.
It remains unlikely that Carlson is a candidate to be optioned to Triple-A at this time, but the fact that we have to clarify that is a very bad sign. They have the outfield numbers to do it, as their signing of Corey Dickerson gives them roster flexibility, though the Cardinals would probably wait until midseason to make such a move.
A demotion to Triple-A would be a drastic fall for Carlson, but could be what he needs to get back to form so he can work with the minor-league coaches and player development people in a low-pressure environment. He has already been seen working with Albert Pujols on the field before games going through his swing.
Time is on Carlson’s side – he has only played in 20 games – and there is a lot of time for him to bounce back. But he’ll need to start showing signs of coming out of this slump before the conversation about optioning him to Triple-A starts to really pick up.