Don’t Overload the Carlson

After much radio silence over the last few days, the Cardinals dropped a lot on folks yesterday.  However, most Cardinal fans only heard six words.

Dylan Carlson is being called up.

I’ve understood (and argued in favor) of what the front office was doing in looking at their other options first.  It made sense and I don’t believe it to be a manipulation of service time, at least not in the way that the term is usually used in baseball.  All that said, you must remember that Dylan Carlson is the Official Prospect of the Blog.  Thanks to a good friend I have a Carlson 70 jersey hanging in my closet (though, sadly, it seems like that number will be just a dream).  I’m excited to see what the Cardinals have in their top prospect.

Not to tamper with the excitement, but let’s have a little caution on Carlson as well.  First of all, this is 2020 and it is pretty clear we are not going to get good things in 2020.  The Cubs are destroying the Central–oh, and there’s that little pandemic thing.  So getting excited about anything in this calendar year seems to be a dangerous proposition.

Because of the pandemic and the way baseball is arranged, Carlson hasn’t played in an organized game since his spring training run in March.  He played in 13 games in the spring, which is a pretty regular run (the leader on the team was Austin Dean with 18, but that might have also included the Kansas City game in summer camp).  Before that, though, it was almost a year ago when he faced competition as he finished up in Memphis around Labor Day.  He’s been able to have regular batting practice and game simulations in Springfield (and that’ll give him a leg up on the major leaguers that have been quarantined basically for two weeks) but it’s been a while since he faced another team with something on the line.

More importantly, let’s remember that not all phenoms light the world on fire immediately.  A few seem to–we’re seeing, to the sorrow of many who believe the Cardinals should have gotten him–what Luis Robert is doing.  A player that Carlson has been compared to lately, though, is Jo Adell of the Angels.  Adell has only played in six games since his callup, but is 4-22 with no extra base hits and a legendary four-base error as a ball bounced off his glove and over the wall against the Rangers this weekend.  He’s struck out 11 times and walked none.  Does this mean he’s a bust?  Of course not!  It just means it can take a while to get some footing.

I mean, the last big hitting prospect to come up through the Cardinal organization was the late Oscar Taveras.  Now, you can argue that his adjustment to the big leagues was complicated by the way Mike Matheny used him and there’s probably something to that.  However, he had a line of .239/.278/.312 in 248 major league plate appearances in his only season.  I wish we would have been able to see more of Taveras, to see if he adjusted and became the star we all thought he was going to be.  The fact remains, though, he wasn’t an instant savior to an offense.

Even the best player in the world and one of the all-time greats started out slow.  Everyone knows Mike Trout has had a legendary career, but when he was originally called up in 2011 as a 19 year old, he had a .220/.281/.390 line with an 89 OPS+ in 135 plate appearances.  Obviously, things clicked starting in 2012, but even Trout didn’t charge through the starting gate.

We don’t know what we’ll see out of Carlson, but we do know that we’re going to likely see a lot of him in a short amount of time.  The game against the White Sox for today was postponed and the two teams will play a doubleheader on Saturday and a single game Sunday.  The Cardinals will then play a doubleheader Monday and Wednesday in Wrigley, with a single game on Tuesday, to help make up some of the series that was lost last weekend in Busch.  I assume that either the Cards will be the home team in one of each game of the doubleheader or they’ll be the home team for an entire doubleheader, but baseball hasn’t officially added that to the schedule yet.

Those three doubleheaders mean that there will be at least seven between now and September 27 (which is only six weeks from Sunday) and there will likely be more as the Cards need to make up games with the Pirates and would still be shy a game with the Cubs.  Jeff Jones suggested they could eliminate the Detroit home doubleheader if they wanted to give the Cards a bit of a break/another off day or to reschedule a divisional makeup instead.  No matter what they do, there’s going to be a lot of Cardinal baseball over the next few weeks.  Assuming nothing comes to mess it up, of course.

John Mozeliak also said that other moves would be made, though none are official as of yet.  Austin Gomber is going on the COVID-19 IL as well, not because he has tested positive, but because contract tracing indicated he’d been around someone that had.  (The Cards did have another coach test positive, but he had been in isolation for a week given an earlier inconclusive test, which is why the team can feel safe about playing this weekend.)  Seth Elledge, Rob Kaminsky (bet he never though he’d wear a Cardinal uniform after that Brandon Moss trade), and John Nogowski will be joining Carlson in coming up from Springfield.

How the roster moves are going to work, especially as the COVID folks start healing up is still up in the air.  Folks like Yadier Molina and Paul DeJong are already getting to where they can start testing and while Mozeliak said no one from that initial batch will be coming to Chicago, you have to think it’s very possible they’ll be ready to go by next Thursday when the Reds come to Busch.  After eight games in five days, they may need the reinforcements!  You know that Molina especially will be there the first minute he’s allowed to be.

It’s been a mess of a year.  There are a lot of obstacles ahead of this team.  That said, if you look at games behind they are technically in second place.  Nobody in the Central except the Cubs is over .500.  All they have to do the rest of the season is win more games than they lose.  If they do that, even if it just has them at .500 on the year, I think they’ll make the playoffs as the second place team in the division, given how much of that division they’ll be playing.

Do your stretching.  Get your workouts in.  This year, the stretch run is going to be basically the whole season and that run starts now.

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