Hopefully you are familiar with the Disney cartoon Phineas and Ferb. If not, even if you don’t have kids, you should rectify that quickly. It’s a smart, fun show that has great rewatchability, plus there’s an amazing Star Wars episode–find it on Disney+. Anyway, the beginning of the theme song says, “There’s 104 days of summer vacation/’til school comes along just to end it.” (Which has always seemed like the longest summer vacation–where do these kids go to school?) The vacation from baseball hasn’t ended yet, but at least we can start to see when it will.
Barring any virus-related issues that require these plans to go disappear faster than a secret agent platypus, we should see baseball-related activity next week and actual baseball games by this time next month. Lots of things still need to be worked out and we aren’t out of the woods yet, but there’s at least some clearing. So what are we going to do today?
Mark Saxon says that the Cards are going to bring 45 players to St. Louis and then have their taxi squad over in Springfield. That means at least five people that aren’t on the 40-man will find their way to St. Louis. Dylan Carlson will probably be one of them, but here’s a hot take: we might not see Carlson this year as part of the major league team.
We’ll have to see what the expanded rosters, etc. will look like, but do the Cardinals want to start his clock (and it’d be pro-rated, I believe, so if he started Day 1 on the roster he’d get a full year of service time) with a short season? What with so many other outfielders ahead of him on the 40-man roster, meaning that time would be limited and difficult to manage? Obviously, I want to see The Official Prospect of the Blog make his debut, but I can easily see why he may not.
There’s an argument to be made, of course, that with such a short season you have to play your best hand and you can’t risk a slow start by Dexter Fowler to bring you down. Which is fair, but there’s no guarantee Carlson is going to tear it up to start with either, is there? You’d have to figure there’s going to be a little bit of an adjustment period, especially since he’s only had a handful of at bats at Memphis.
Now, in fairness, it didn’t take him long to adjust to Memphis last year. He hit .361/.418/.681 in the 18 games he got to play there. And his first month at Springfield last year produced a .287/.343/.511 line. So there’s definitely the argument that he can adjust well. He also had a .905 OPS in spring training this year, though if I remember correctly (and it’s been a while) he was scuffling over the last week or so before the shutdown. It could be that we’ll be asking, “Isn’t he a little young to be an MVP candidate?”
How Mike Shildt is going to go here is going to be interesting to see. He spent a lot of the first half of 2019 trying to see what he had, then pulled the right levers to help propel the team into the playoffs. He’s not going to have that sort of time now and he’s still got the logjam of players to short through. Short of creating the Outfielder-inator that allows for more outfielders on the field, all he can do is use the playing time efficiently.
Which means Fowler, Harrison Bader, Tyler O’Neill, Lane Thomas, and perhaps Justin Williams and Austin Dean could be all in the way of Carlson making the big leagues. Is it worth him coming up if he’s only going to play every three days to start? In Saxon’s simulation for The Athletic, he brought up Carlson on June 4. That was a logical and reasonable time to bring him up, but that’s also more than 60 games into the planned schedule. It won’t work like that here.
I’d like to see Carlson on the team and there’s a strong chance he will be, since they won’t want to lose a year of development for him. However, there’s just as many reasons to believe he won’t be–and while it may not be the main driver, service time will be a factor. People will be slapping that button like it’s a self-destruct, but I do think the issue of playing time is going to be a bigger impediment than the service time issue.
Even if you remove Carlson from the mix, the outfield situation is going to be even more fascinating to watch because of the quick hooks that might be used. A stretch of five bad games might have us then saying, “Hey, where’s Harry?” The idea of playing your way out of a slump might have to go on the shelf as the team can’t afford to see Fowler struggle like he did in 2018, waiting for a turnaround. Injuries could solve some of the questions, but they could create other ones. If Bader, O’Neill, and Thomas get going at the same time, do they get to play and Fowler and Carlson (if he’s around) sit while they have the hot hand? How quickly can you determine if the hot hand has cooled?
The idea is always that you couldn’t win a season in April and you probably wouldn’t lose one either. This year, though, you can win a division in August. A really good first two weeks puts you in the driver’s seat, making it really difficult for anyone to bust you out of it. Imagine someone doing a run like the 1984 Tigers, who started 35-5? Or even more reasonable, what if you have a start like the Cardinals did last year? Remember, they were 20-10 after their first 30 games. Without the collapse like they had in May, that would almost guarantee a playoff spot in a 60 game schedule. Heck, even with their terrible May they were 31-29. I don’t think that would work since the playoffs aren’t expanding, but you never know.
There’s going to be a lot of strategy and a lot of decisions to be made on the fly this season. If nothing else, it should be entertaining. There will be plenty of fans asking Shildt, John Mozeliak, and the like, “Whatcha doin’?” Lots to discuss and write about, assuming I actually write a post after this series is over.
I’m out, peace!
(Oh, there you are Harry.)