Exit Interview 2020: Dylan Carlson

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: Dylan Carlson

Season stats: 35 games, 119 PA, 11 R, 22 H, 7 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 16 RBI, 1 SB, 1 CS, 8 BB, 35 K, .200/.252/.364, 66 OPS+, -0.1 bWAR

Postseason stats: 2 R, 1 2B, 4 BB, 3 K, .333/.571/.444

Statcast: .303 xwOBA, 9.2% barrel %, 87.4 exit velocity, 42.1% hard hit %

Best Statcast category: Sprint Speed (74th percentile)

Worst Statcast category: Outfielder Jump (19th percentile)

Hero/Goat: Hero 3


Overview: While you can ask this about just about anyone, it’s fair to wonder exactly what Dylan Carlson (Official Prospect of the Blog)’s season would have looked like without a global pandemic wrecking havoc on the Cardinals.  After all, the shortened season could have left him in Springfield for much of 2020, given that the return he would have provided might not have been worth the cost of a full year of service for two-plus months.  He actually started at the alternative site, but COVID coming for the Cardinals upended those planes.  When the Cards returned after their almost three-week layoff, Carlson was with them and getting plenty of time in the outfield.

Those that were expecting the phenom to carry the entire load, though, must have been sorely disappointed.  Carlson had opportunities, had bad luck, had a lot of things, but overwhelming success was not one of them.  After his third game, he didn’t get his batting average over .200 until the last week of the season.  He even had a short trip back to Springfield to help him reset his approach and it seemed to work.  After he returned from the trip across state, he posted a .936 OPS and, in the final series of the year, finally moved from the bottom of the lineup to the cleanup spot, where he stayed for each game of the playoffs.  Interestingly, he joined Stan Musial and Albert Pujols as Cardinal rookies that hit cleanup in the playoffs.

It seemed like, early on, Carlson continued to bat with the bases loaded, only to be unable to come through with the big hit.  (This only proved that he really was a True Cardinal, at least one that fit on this team.)  He also spent the first week or so hitting balls very hard, but they tended to find gloves.  All of that seemed to do a number on him and before his reset, he was starting to look lost.  Thankfully the team recognized that and gave him the time he needed to get right.

He was weaker against lefties (.558 OPS, no homers) than righties (.621 OPS, three homers) which would give some weight to the idea of him and Harrison Bader perhaps swapping out.  Then again, he only had 14 plate appearances versus left-handers, which will likely increase significantly next year and make a sample actually mean something.  You can’t blame Mike Shildt for trying to maximize whatever he could this year in an attempt to spark the offense, though.

Outlook: Dylan Carlson isn’t going to be Stan Musial or Albert Pujols.  I mean, I’m fine being wrong with that statement, but the odds are anyone that comes up isn’t going to be an inner-circle Hall of Famer.  Carlson’s hype doesn’t look like it was baseless, though.  There’s a lot to like about this young man and now that he’s gotten into the big leagues, there’s nothing that would seem to be holding him back.  If Carlson doesn’t play 90% of the Cardinals’ games next season, something will have gone horribly awry.  Getting a chance to see this young man develop into the player he will become promises to be one of the great delights of the next half-decade.

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