This Cardinal player isn't helping his case for a strong 2024 season

Dylan Carlson has struggled mightily this spring. He will probably be the team's starting center fielder.
St. Louis Cardinals v Miami Marlins
St. Louis Cardinals v Miami Marlins / Rich Storry/GettyImages

Dylan Carlson's career has been tumultuous. He was once a top-15 prospect in all of baseball, and he showed signs of greatness in 2021. He has fallen mightily since then. In the two seasons since his rookie campaign, Carlson's OPS+ has gone from 115 to 99 to just 79 in 2023. While his defense has remained steady, his offensive output has nullified any benefits his defense provides.

Carlson has experienced plenty of injuries since his rookie season, and while those injuries provide some explanation for his struggles, he should still be able to tap into former prospect pedigree to be serviceable in center. The Cardinals are turning to him as their starting center fielder more than likely.

With Tommy Edman's recovery from his wrist surgery not going as planned, Dylan Carlson will likely be the team's Opening Day center fielder. However, if he continues to struggle this spring and if either Victor Scott II or Michael Siani ascend to new heights, Carlson may still be relegated to the team's fourth outfielder.

In only 24 at-bats this spring, Carlson has slashed .208/.240/.250. He has struck out more times than he has reached base, and he only has one extra-base hit. Carlson has logged 5 hits, 1 walk, and 1 stolen base. The Cardinals need Carlson to turn back the clock and show what made him a top prospect in baseball just 3 years ago.

Carlson has been steady defensively in limited time in spring. He has started 8 games in center field and just 1 game in right field. He has 12 putouts from center with 100% accuracy. There are no concerns about Carlson's defensive viability in center field. The concerns largely lie with his offensive output.

In a season where injuries and underperformance will be magnified even more than normal, Carlson's ability to hit becomes all the more important. If he can churn out a performance similar to 2021, Carlson can slot into the back end of the batting order, thus making it deeper. If he struggles offensively, Carlson runs the risk of being benched, demoted, or traded.

Victor Scott II's arrival is on the horizon; Tommy Edman will eventually return and take the starting role. Dylan Carlson is hurting his case to be a regular on the 2024 Cardinals after a tough start to his spring.