Every year since 2012, we’ve spent some time after the season looking back at those that wore the Birds on the Bat. Whether it’s a bit player that got into just a couple of games or someone that played almost every day, we’ll look at their stats, their positives, their negatives, and grade them based on what we would have expected from them. The stat line is from their time in St. Louis, though splits and other numbers may include time with other teams, if applicable. Think of this as like the players packing up their locker and then seeing Mike Shildt before they head off for the winter. Once again, our great header work comes to us from cardinalsgifs, who continues to be a master.
If we’re talking about 2019, we’ve got to highlight the brand that made the most impact this season: Primos and their partnership with Jose Martinez. Throughout the span of these interviews (today through Dec. 5) you can get 10% off your order of that sweet, sweet Cafecito coffee (well, I guess you probably have to doctor it to make it sweet) or anything else at their site. My wife is a coffee snob and we’ve bought multiple bags of the medium roast. It’s a great stocking stuff or Christmas gift as well, especially when you expand your order to pick up the Jose Martinez coffee mug. So use code C70SAVE10 at checkout and show your support of their ties to the Cardinal fanbase!
Player: Tyler O’Neill
Season stats: 60 G, 151 PA, 18 R, 37 H, 6 2B, 5 HR, 16 RBI, 1 SB, 10 BB, 53 K, .262/.311/.411, 88 OPS+, 0.1 bWAR
Statcast: 8.0% barrel %, 89.2 exit velocity, 37.2% hard hit %, .284 xwOBA
Hero/Goat: Hero 2, Goat 3
Overall grade: C
Positives: Hit all five of his home runs against right handers….all of his RBI came against righties as well….hit .345 with a 1.000 OPS at home….four of his homers came in the second half….hit .301 in July with a .823 OPS….hit .303 in April, the only other month he had over 15 major league plate appearances….had an .861 OPS in games the Cards won….hit .268 and all five homers came when he was a starter….posted a .308 average when he led off an inning….had an .867 OPS on the first pitch….put up a .339 average when the count was even….slashed .304/.350/.607 with two outs in an inning….four of his homers came with two outs as well….hit .360 in medium leverage situations….posted a 1.400 OPS when he batted in the first inning….had a .969 OPS in the first three innings….hit .424 on ground balls….had a .381 average in interleague play….had a .796 OPS in day games….hit 11 homers in 41 games at Memphis.
Negatives: Got hurt at the beginning of August, ending his most consistent stretch of playing yet….got a total of 13 plate appearances after returning from the injured list….hit .205 with one homer on the road….had a .653 OPS against lefties, whom he only faced 29 times….went 1-10 in September with a double and three walks….hit .241 coming off the bench….pinch-hit at a .125 clip….had a .472 OPS when the pitcher was ahead….hit .190 when there was one out in an inning….slashed .192/.222/.231 in late and close situations….posted a .442 OPS in high leverage situations….hit .204 in the late innings….had a .600 OPS against power pitchers….went 1-6 against the Cubs and 1-9 against the Brewers….hit .241 in night games.
Overview: O’Neill returned to the majors from his minor league stint on June 29 and was put into the starting lineup. From there until July 31, when he hurt his wrist, he played basically every day and hit .283 with 80% of the homers he’d hit in the big leagues. So to see him return and not be able to get an at bat, much less a start, seemed to be pretty telling to me about his place in the organization. It well may be that the injury wasn’t completely healed and it’s true that in September Mike Shildt didn’t do a lot of changes with his lineup, but it still seemed really strange to me that they couldn’t get him in there somewhere. He ended his season going 0-6 but that was spread out starting September 13.
It’s also disappointing because his run in July seems to show that, with consistent playing time, O’Neill can be a significant contributor to the team. We tend to write him off as a homer-or-nothing guy, but he can put up some good averages and has doubles power as well. Of course, the strikeouts are going to be there, but that’s part of the deal these days. He also plays good defense and can definitely play some center field, so in a different world he and Harrison Bader would be competing, with O’Neill having the upper hand.
Outlook: Somebody’s got to go in the outfield and I think O’Neill has the best shot to bring something of value back. After sitting as much as he did last year, I imagine his value isn’t as high as it used to be, but it’s still better than Bader, for instance. (Why the club wouldn’t part with one of those guys for Zack Wheeler is still beyond me.) If O’Neill does stay in the organization, I would like to see him get a fair shot at center field. He’s proven all he can at AAA and if he can’t play regularly in St. Louis, he needs to go somewhere that he can.