This season didn’t go like most seasons. The Cardinals were terrible. I stopped writing here very much, with nothing after the blog anniversary. However, some things must go on and that includes the Exit Interview series! Now in its 12th year, it’s our look back at each player that made an appearance in a game for the St. Louis Cardinals. We’re approaching it a little different this season, a little more literary and a little less statistical, but hopefully you enjoy it just the same. As always, I am grateful that cardinalsgifs has agreed to use his talent for the header image!
Player: Dylan Carlson
Stats: 76 G, 255 PA, 27 R, 8 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 27 RBI, 3 SB, .219/.318/.333, 0.5 bWAR
Statcast: 5.8% barrel, 34.1% sweet spot, 109.1 max exit velocity, .293 wOBA, .320 xwOBA, 19.2% K, 10.2% BB
Dylan Carlson never got on track in 2023 and it started even before players made it to Jupiter. Over the winter, Tyler O’Neill was quoted as wanting to take over the center field position and, somewhat surprisingly, the club went along with it in the early going. Carlson didn’t get a start until the third game of the season and only played center in two of his first six appearances. It settled some after that–his last eight appearances of April saw him in center–but he still didn’t play in nine April games and came off the bench in six others. The player that had finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting just one season back was suddenly way down on the totem pole.
Eventually O’Neill got hurt but the next threat to his playing time came out of nowhere. With Jordan Walker locked into right and (when healthy) Lars Nootbaar in left, Carlson would have seemed poised to get some significant run in center. Instead, Tommy Edman–an infielder with limited reps in the outfield–wound up cutting into Carlson’s at bats and innings in the field. When a shortstop is playing over you, there’s probably going to be some soul searching going on.
Whether it was the lack of confidence, the inconsistent playing time, various injuries (he was out the last half of May and then his season ended mid August), or just the lack of adjustment to the league, Carlson never got on track offensively. He had a .929 OPS in June but followed that up with a .533 mark in July as trade rumors swirled around him. Unlike last season in the Juan Soto situation, Carlson never seemed to get that vote of confidence from the front office. They didn’t deal him at the deadline but that may have been in part because his value is at its nadir currently.
Could it be that Carlson has peaked? It’s not impossible. Baseball is littered with players that had a ROY-like season and then were out of the game half a decade later. I don’t think that’s the case for Carlson but you can’t rule it out, I guess. The walk rate is good, the strikeout rate is good. The defense is still good, though that wasn’t a major part of his WAR total like I thought it might have been. The rumors are going to swirl around Carlson again this winter because he’s young and he has talent. The question still remains, though: what does this organization think they have in Carlson and are they right?
What’s in store in 2024: If the Cardinals are going to trade for a young starter, you would think that Carlson might be part of the package given his upside, even though his value on the market isn’t nearly what it was a year or so ago. The Cards might be more likely to hold on to him and see if he’s got a rebound in him. It would probably be best if they stuck him in center and just left him alone but the odds of that happening for an extended period of time aren’t real high.