After every season (dating back to 2012), we’ve spent time looking at every player that got into a game for the St. Louis Cardinals that season. They might have gotten a couple of innings, they might have played every day, but if they played, they get a post. Usually, I like to term this like the players are packing up their locker and then seeing Mike Shildt before they head off for the winter. This year, of course, was anything but typical. So we’ll look at every player, we’ll take in some of their stats, but we won’t be giving out grades this season or delving too much into the positive/negative. There are just too many variables in the Year of COVID for that to be reasonable. As he has for the past few years, cardinalsgifs has lent his enormous talents to our header image and we thank him for it!
Player: Tyler O’Neill
Season stats: 50 games, 157 PA, 20 R, 24 H, 5 2B, 7 HR, 19 RBI, 15 BB, 43 K, .173/.261/.360, 68 OPS+, 0.6 bWAR
Postseason stats: None (pinch-ran but no PA)
Statcast: .280 xwOBA, 8.2% barrel %, 88.0 exit velocity, 39.2% hard hit %
Best Statcast category: Sprint Speed (99th percentile)
Worst Statcast category: xBA (5th percentile)
Hero/Goat: Hero 4, Goat 4
On COVID IL: No
Overview: The idea has always been that, with regular playing time, O’Neill would show some consistency as well as power and give the Cardinals the player they hoped they were getting when they traded Marco Gonzales. With the departure of Marcell Ozuna, O’Neill was basically handed left field and the results were a little disappointing. The power was there, for sure, as he tied with Brad Miller for the team lead in homers. However, the rest of the offensive package took a bit of a hit. O’Neill started basically every game of the first month and wound up hitting .154 through that stretch. The playing time dwindled a bit, until the last week of the season saw him sit two games entirely, start only two, and go 0-6 with a walk in that span.
It was his usage in the playoffs that really struck me as weird. Many of you have heard me say this, but for the leader of the team in home runs not to get an at bat is an odd situation to be sure. You would have thought maybe he’d have gotten a shot in Game 2 to pinch-hit or maybe a start in Game 3. Those could be explained–the offense wasn’t really the problem in either of the first two games, so there was no particular reason to shake things up in Game 3 and the DH limits pinch-hitting spots. However, for O’Neill to enter Game 3 as a defensive replacement, then be pinch-hit for with a four run deficit and two outs in the ninth inning, seems inexplicable to me. Unless there was an injury situation we didn’t (and still don’t) know about, there was no reason that Austin Dean should take the last at bat over O’Neill.
On the plus side for the Canadian slugger, he got some recognition for his defense, winning the Gold Glove based on some very excellent defensive metrics. While you think more of Harrison Bader when it comes to the spectacular play, O’Neill had some nice range of his own and made left field much less of an adventure than it had been the last couple of years.
Outlook: After seeing the playoffs, I was almost certain that O’Neill had fallen enough in the front office’s estimation that he’d be dealt in the offseason. Between the good defense and the cheap power, though, it seems like it would be counter to what the Cardinals seem to be wanting to do with their payroll. Unless they were able to get an outstanding return (which, given everyone’s need to get cheaper, is somewhat possible), I would expect that we’ll see O’Neill regularly playing the outfield again next season, hopefully with the results we had expected before 2020.