This former Cardinals top prospect has the best opportunity going into Opening Day

With the roster starting to take complete form, there is one remaining hole in the field that is about to be taken over by a player looking to reestablish himself
St. Louis Cardinals v Chicago White Sox
St. Louis Cardinals v Chicago White Sox / Quinn Harris/GettyImages

With the recent addition of Brandon Crawford to the St. Louis Cardinals 2024 roster, the team has completed the task of building a floor that was lacking in the prior season. Depth has been the sole focus of the 2023-2024 off-season and it looks to finally be achieved.

With Spring Training games underway, players' health is always an uncertainty. For the Cardinals, the most uncertain situation is whether Tommy Edman will be ready for opening day to play center field. He finally found a permanent position for himself going forward and was one of the best fielders in that position during the 2023 season. With depth not being an issue now for the Cardinals, it is now the next man up to win the starting centerfield position.

Fans are clamoring for the upcoming star Victor Scott II to break camp and start opening day. His speed and defensive profile are electric and have the baseball world on notice. He has quickly risen through the farm system, so quickly that he set the minor league record in stolen bases in 2023. But with young players who are developing at such a fast rate, it can come to an utter halt once they reach the Major Leagues. Scott will need more plate appearances and situational opportunities in Jupiter to give himself a more definitive case to be the Opening Day starter. But with a slash line of .303/.369/.425/.794 in 618 PA, it will be hard to not give Scott a chance if he has a spring camp of a similar outcome.

But with the roster as a whole not having much experience in centerfield, it comes down to one player who will be given the most consideration to win the position on Opening Day. Dylan Carlson has fallen from grace over the last couple of seasons. With very little competition for starting positions in the field, he is being given the best situation to prove himself as a highly regarded talent again.

The former Cardinal's top prospect advanced through the minor leagues at an accelerated rate, until he got stumped at the Major League level. His defense and range have succeeded at the big league level, where he has played all three outfield positions with much efficiency. But where Carlson struggles to make himself an everyday player is with his hitting. Carlson hammers left-handed pitching, where he has always shown his power ability. But there is much-needed improvement with pitch recognition and hitting the ball hard versus right-handed pitching.

Tommy Edman has been working to make the switch to hitting right-handed full-time to provide more value from the plate. Carlson might have to make the same decision if he wants to become an everyday player going forward. But with how mismanaged his playing time and opportunities have been in the past, he is looking for the next chance to really prove himself. People forget that Carlson is only 25 years old and is still developing. For the fans who claim he was the holdup in the Juan Soto trade rumors and to the fans wanting to move him to the Yankees for minor-league pitching, maybe he can prove to everyone why it has been wise to keep Dylan Carlson as a Cardinal.