Cardinals Spring Training: Dylan Carlson flips the script on outfield competition

The Cardinals' young outfielder has turned it around in the last 10 days.
St. Louis Cardinals v Miami Marlins
St. Louis Cardinals v Miami Marlins / Rich Storry/GettyImages

The St. Louis Cardinals may have a good problem on their hands in center field in 2024.

Dylan Carlson has turned his spring training around in the past 8 games. Across his first 7 games, Carlson had a .111/.111/.167 slash line with only 2 hits and 5 strikeouts. He was not making a very strong case for the starting center fielder spot after Tommy Edman's injury.

At the same time, prospect phenom Victor Scott II was blowing up. His speed and defense were on full display, and the impending Spring Breakout showcase was another chance for Scott II to show off on a more national stage. Carlson appeared to be playing uninspired baseball, and for someone who had all of the promise of a future All-Star, his chances to take over the starting center fielder spot were dwindling by the day.

The story has been vastly different for Dylan Carlson these past 9 games. In 26 at-bats, Carlson has been able to raise his slash line to .273/.319/.545. He has 5 extra-base hits during that span including 3 home runs (one grand slam in Wednesday's game), and he has walked 3 times compared to 8 strikeouts. While one would prefer the strikeout numbers to be lower, it's tough to argue with his power output and increase in his slash line.

"Yeah it felt good. Just tried to keep the plan simple today. The pitcher out there is real crafty, mixes it up , so trying to use th eother side of the field. I just went up there and executed and got some pitches to hit. (Starting) is the goal. That's always been the goal. All I can do is put myself in the best position to compete when I do get the opportunity."

Dylan Carlson

Most of Dylan Carlson's career offensive struggles can be attributed to his virtual inability to hit from the left side. His grand slam on Monday came from that side of the plate, and a home run he hit on March 13th also came batting left-handed. His .219/.286/.438 slash line from the left side is noticeably weaker than his right-handed stats, but the fact that he is showing power from that side of the plate is reassuring.

While Carlson has split time across the outfield this spring, his defense has also been strong. Most of his innings throughout spring training have come in center (61 innings out of 83 total innings played). Defensive metrics aren't tabulated during spring training, but he has a perfect fielding percentage at the moment.

Despite entering his 5th professional season, Carlson is still only 25. He has been battling injuries these past two seasons, but we have seen glimpses of his potential when fully healthy. In 2021, Carlson played in 149 games, and he slashed .266/.343/.437 for an OPS+ of 115. He also played plus defense in center. If he can continue to grow offensively while staying healthy, we could see another season like that out of the former top prospect.

Carlson's recent spring showing has given fans hope for his 2024 season. Despite a rocky start to the spring circuit, Dylan Carlson has been able to turn it around. Perhaps a strong 2024 season is in the cards for the young switch hitter.