How the St. Louis Cardinals are trying to get Tyler O’Neill to bounce back, starting with rest and different kinds of work in batting practice.
There have been many mysteries in the first month of the regular season, perhaps none bigger than the fall of St. Louis Cardinals star outfielder Tyler O’Neill.
Last season, O’Neill emerged as a revelation. He received prominent MVP votes after hitting .286/.352/.560 with 34 home runs and 80 RBI and appeared on the verge of superstardom. With one more dominant season, he was primed to be in the conversation with Nolan Arenado as the Cardinals’ best player, and the face of the franchise for the next 5-10 years.
How things can change in less than 12 months.
O’Neill, 26, is hitting .193/.258/.303 with two home runs and 19 RBI in 124 plate appearances this season. The Cardinals have held him out of the lineup the last two games in an attempt to get him back on track and, according to Jeff Jones of the Belleville News, has been standing in the batter’s box during batting practice trying to get his timing back.
O’Neill is expected to play on Tuesday against the New York Mets, where the Cardinals hope he gets back on track. In fact, they NEED him to get back on track. Their offense still ranks 10th in total runs (157), but with the amount of talent and resources the team has invested, they need it to be a top-5 (or better) unit. Especially with the division-rival Milwaukee Brewers, who have arguably the best rotation in baseball, ranking fifth in total runs scored (172).
For the Cardinals, that starts with O’Neill. If he bounces back to the player he was last season, their upside is endless, and could vault them ahead of the Brewers. For now, they will be patient, and will keep him in the lineup on a consistent basis hoping that he bounces out of this slump
O’Neill will not get the Paul DeJong treatment. He will not be optioned to the minors. They will stick it out with him and his past success, especially in 2021, warrants it. But they need him to bounce back, and soon. Their 2022 season may ultimately depend on it.