Cardinals news: Tyler O'Neill and Dylan Carlson comment on center field competiton
Tyler O'Neill and Dylan Carlson are set for a battle to start in center field this season
The St. Louis Cardinals tipped their hand a bit to begin Spring Training, having Tyler O'Neill begin camp training solely in center field. This sparked conversations about how much of that was related to his preparation for Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic, and how much of that was signs of how the Cardinals may choose to use O'Neill this season.
According to John Denton of MLB.com, when Oli Marmol was asked about O'Neill's work in center field, he was clear that it was him competing for the starting center fielder job. He went on in detail that O'Neill was looking for this competition coming into camp.
"“He came into camp wanting that [position],” Marmol said. “He came up through our Minor League system and actually through pro ball as a pretty good center fielder, so he's going to get a shot there. It's something he wants and he's going to compete for it.”"- Oli Marmol via John Denton of MLB.com
When Denton asked O'Neill about competing to be the center fielder, O'Neill said he'd love the opportunity and has worked this off-season to improve his quickness for a potential position change.
Honestly, it's easy to see why both O'Neill and the Cardinals would be interested in this change. O'Neill is a two-time Gold Glover in left field, and with his elite speed, a move to center field seems like something he can handle. His move there would also may it easier for the club to start Jordan Walker, who would likely play in the corner outfield once he makes his MLB debut.
On top of being a capable defender there, if O'Neill's bat returns to form this year, he gains even more value being a slugging center fielder rather than a corner outfielder. Approaching free agency after the 2024 season, it makes sense for the 27-year-old to boost his value as much as he can.
What may be even more telling so far is how Dylan Carlson has handled the competition to this point.