One of our regular offseason traditions is the Exit Interview, where we look back at each player that got into a game for the St. Louis Cardinals in the past season. This is the 11th season we’ve done this and it’s a good way to get a view of the whole year, not just a short stretch of games. It’s sort of like a performance review before the players went off to their offseason work, spending a little time with Oli Marmol and going over what went right, what went wrong. Stats and grades are only for a player’s time in St. Louis, though splits numbers may include other teams. As always, my sincere thanks to the legend of cardinalsgifs for providing the header image!
Player: Dylan Carlson
Season stats: 128 G, 488 PA, 56 R, 30 2B, 4 3B, 8 HR, 42 RBI, 5 SB, 2 CS, 45 BB, 94 K, .236/.316/.380, 100 OPS+, 2.0 bWAR, 2.4 fWAR
Statcast: .301 xwOBA, 4.4 barrel %, 86.1 exit velocity, 27.2 hard hit %, 19.3 K %, 9.2 BB %
Best Statcast category: Arm Strength (87th percentile)
Worst Statcast category: Hard Hit Percentage (4th percentile)
Hero/Goat: Hero 8, Goat 13
Positives: Had four three-hit games this season, though the hits were 11 singles and one double….hit .305 against left-handers….had a strong June, posting a .937 OPS with two of his eight homers….took over center field in Harrison Bader‘s absence and played it well enough that the Cardinals were comfortable dealing Bader at the deadline….was strong off the bench, slashing .444/.546/.556 in games he didn’t start….went 3-9 with a walk as a pinch-hitter….went 4-8 with a homer hitting eighth….had a 1.065 OPS on the first pitch….hit .263 when seeing a starter for the third time in a game.
Negatives: Did not hit his first home run until May 7….hit his last home run August 14….last had his batting average .250 or higher on August 2….put up a .631 OPS away from Busch Stadium….hit .205 in the second half….scuffled to start the season (.184 average in April) and to end it (.189 average in September)….hit .193 in games the Cardinals lost….had a .634 OPS playing right field….hit .212 when the pitcher was ahead….struggled with men on base, hitting .230/.271/.372….with two outs and runners in scoring position, put up a .490 OPS….hit .219 against the Cubs but did have five extra-base hits against them….had a .416 OPS against Milwaukee….was in the bottom 7% of the league in average exit velocity and the bottom 4% in hard hit rate.
Overview: This wasn’t the year the Cardinals were expecting from Carlson. After finishing third in the Rookie of the Year voting in 2021, most figured Carlson would take the next step toward being an All-Star caliber player. Instead, whether it was due to injuries or other issues, Carlson slid back in almost every area. He did almost match his doubles total from ’21 in 100+ fewer at bats and his defense was notable as he slid over to center, but that’s about the extent of the goodness. He never played bad enough to get benched for any period of time, in part because there were no other real centerfielders to cover the position, but there was never really any catch, any games that it looked like he was going to finally break through. He hit .237 from the date of his last home run, just getting a single here, maybe a double there, but scuffling just like everyone else over that span scuffled.
Outlook: In the postseason press conference, John Mozeliak noted that Carlson had a wrist and thumb injury that the club didn’t fully understand or know about. If that’s the case, it would explain a lot about what we saw out of the young man this season. Along with that, he wouldn’t be the first rookie to have a little bit of trouble in his sophomore season. Hopefully he’s able to heal up this winter and, if so, I would imagine we’d see more of the ’21 (or better) version of Carlson next season, especially if the club gets another bat to help ease any burden on him.