This article was originally published at the Redbird Daily by Colin Garner, and is now proud to call the Cards Conclave home. Throughout July, we’ll be re-running all 30 Prospect articles as we lead up to Colin’s Mid-Season Prospect Update later in the month.
In Collaboration with Kyle Reis and Birds On The Black, Colin Garner presents you with The Cardinals Top 30 Prospects! Today, we have #4, Tyler O’Neill.
4. Tyler O’Neill – OF
3rd Round – 2013 Draft (Seattle)
Entering age-23 season
What I Like
Power. Tyler O’Neill has by far the best power of any player in the Cardinals’ system. He really broke out in 2015 and 2016, when he hit a combined 56 homers with the Mariners Class-A and Double-A affiliates. There, his offensive game was diverse: he walked in 6.5 percent and 10.8 percent of his plate appearances in ’15 and ’16, respectively.
In Memphis last season, his walk rate depreciated but the power remained. He slugged an astronomically-high .548 with 12 homers in just 37 games. Obviously, the PCL is hitter friendly, but the man’s ISO (SLG%-AVG) of .295 was way higher than his batting average of .253.
The power shouldn’t be surprising. After all, he’s the son of a former Mr. Canada bodybuilder. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, as O’Neill is probably the strongest player on the 40-man roster (a title he inherited from Randal Grichuk, and Matt Holliday before him).
Defensively, O’Neill is intriguing. He can play center field, but it’s definitely not his strong suit. Logic would suggest, then, that he could be above average in one of the corners, probably right, where both his arm and speed project as slightly above average according to Fangraphs.
What I Don’t Like
Maybe it’s the fact that Randal Grichuk didn’t work out, but I see a lot of risk with O’Neill. For one, he strikes out a ton. His K% has never been below 25% at any stop in his development, ever. That’s concerning.
I don’t like the perception that O’Neill is injury prone simply because he’s a strong guy. He played 120 games last year and 130 in 2016. That’s not iron man territory, but it’s not fragile either.
O’Neill’s path to playing time isn’t clear. Ozuna, Fowler, and Pham are locked up for at least the next two years. Harrison Bader, our number six prospect, outplayed him this Spring (one of the reasons O’Neill was demoted so quickly was a hamstring injury). Jose Adolis Garcia and Randy Arozarena had tremendous Springs. JAG has had success at Triple-A and Arozarena will certainly be there by the second half.
With that being said, I think O’Neill will be ready for the majors at some point this season. Over a long six-month season, it’s likely that he’ll make his debut. My concern is that he won’t get the amount of playing time necessary to continue his development. It’s the same reason folks are (rightly) concerned about Carson Kelly and I don’t want to see that happen again with O’Neill.
Thanks for reading!