Tyler O’Neill still has the tools and advance metrics for success
When you watch O’Neill in the box or roaming the in outfield, it is hard not to get excited about what he can do. The Canadian has elite power and speed, and when he is in a groove, he looks like a true five-tool player who can change the game in a variety of ways.
O’Neill’s .700 OPS in 2022 is pretty surprising when you consider how bad it has looked at times, and shows that he is the kind of player who is going to fight in grind, even when things are not going well. When O’Neill does not have his powerful bat, he is fighting for infield singles, grinding out walks, and doing everything he can to make an impact.
Looking at some of his advanced stats on Baseball Savant, O’Neill has seem noticeable drops in things like Hardhit%, average exit velocity, xBA, xSLG, and more. All of this makes sense with the eye test and will have to be worked on over the offseason. What is interesting though is that in the midst of these struggles, O’Neill has improved his BB% drastically and has seem slight improvements in his Whiff% and K%.
The holes in O’Neill’s game entering the season centered around his high strikeout rate and lack of walks. Seeing this improvement in his game could set him up for even more success if he is able to turn around the funk he is in.
Expecting O’Neill to be a .286 hitter is probably unrealistic, but if O’Neill’s walk rate can remain elevated or even improve more while hitting more like .260, he could still get on base at a high percentage and do damage when he makes contact.
The great thing about O’Neill is that he maintains a nice floor with his elite defense and base running. Even when he is slumping, he makes plays in the field, steals bases, and can score on plays that many others cannot. It may be frustrating to know he could “do more” at the plate, but he is still not a liability even when his bat is not showing up.
Manager Oli Marmol has maintained the position that this team is at its best when O’Neill is playing well, and that remains true. The Cardinals lack a true third elite bat, and although Albert Pujols has stepped into that role as of late, there is no clear third guy for 2023. Jordan Walker may develop into that, but the Cardinals need to have veterans that they can rely on in the meantime.