Dylan Carlson is coming off a very nice rookie season, where at the age of 22, finished the season 3rd in Rookie of the Year voting (behind Jonathan India of the Cincinnati Reds & Trevor Rogers of the Miami Marlins).
He slashed .266/.343/.437 with a 113 wRC+ and a .336 wOBA. He had 18 HR & 65 RBI, accumulated 144 hits in 149 games (including 31 doubles & 4 triples), and posted a 2.8 fWAR and 3.2 bWAR.
Carlson spent a good chunk of the season playing center field while Harrison Bader was injured, and held down the position just fine. For the season, in 60 games (501 innings), he had a .986 fielding percentage with just 2 errors and once moving back to right field played in 87 games (674.2 innings) with again just 2 errors with a .987 fielding percentage.
He proved to be a plus defender for the Cardinals as well as showing his versatility. Having him share the outfield with 2 Gold Glove Award winners (Bader & O’Neill), it’s safe to say that this young outfield will be a force with growing potential to be even better going forward.
Back to Carlson’s offense, there is some cause for concern as he struck out 152 times in 542 ABs, struggling at times with breaking pitches. But overall, he handled his time in the Cardinals lineup with maturity beyond his years.
Can we expect the same from Dylan entering his second full season? Sometimes players hit that “sophomore slump”, and hopefully given that Carlson saw time at the big league level in the Covid-shortened 2020 season that will parlay into having added experience.
In 35 games for St. Louis that season, Carlson slashed .200/.252/.364 with 3 HR & 16 RBI. He had 22 hits (including 7 doubles and a triple), but did strikeout 35 times in 110 ABs.
When the Cardinals drafted Carlson in the 2016 MLB draft, he was not listed as a Top 200 draft prospect, yet he was selected in the 1st round (#33 overall pick) and the organization offered a $1.35M signing bonus which Carlson accepted after rescinding his college commitment to Cal-State Fullerton.
He went on to play the 2016 season for the Cardinals of the Gulf Coast League where (at age 17), slashed .251/.313/.404 with 3 HR & 22 RBI in 50 games. He had 46 hits (13 doubles) that year. The following season Carlson played for the Peoria Chiefs where in 115 games, slashed .240/.342/.347 with 7 HR & 42 RBI.
In 2018, Dylan split time between Peoria and Palm Beach where he had a combined .246/.348/.390 with 11 HR & 62 RBI.
He broke out in the 2019 season, where he started the year with the Double-A Springfield Cardinals, named a Texas League All-Star, was a HR derby participant and was selected to represent the Cardinals in the 2019 Future’s game. In 108 games for Springfield, Carlson slashed .281/.364/.518 with 21 HR, 59 RBI & 18 SB and was promoted to Triple-A Memphis in August.
In just 18 games with the Redbirds, he hit .361 with 5 HR & 9 RBI. At season’s end he was named Texas League Player of the Year.
Carlson turned 23 in October and getting that first season and a half under his belt early, surely will pay dividends in his growth for St. Louis. He was slotted into different spots in the Cardinals batting order last season, but with Tommy Edman the likely leadoff hitter, it probably wouldn’t make much sense that Oliver Marmol bats him second much in 2022. Both being switch hitters, you could see Dylan slotted in at 3, 4 or 5 with Paul Goldschmidt batting second & Nolan Arenado & Tyler O’Neill in front of and behind Carlson.
One of many attractive traits of Dylan Carlson is that he hits left-handed pitching particularly well. He slashed .341/.394/.528 with 5 HR & 19 RBI, 42 hits (8 doubles) & 32 strikeouts in 123 at-bats vs lefties.
Steamer has Carlson projected at a slashline of .251/.329/.422 with 19 HR & 66 RBI along with 144 strikeouts in 547 ABs for 2022. Comparing that to his 2020 & 2021 combined slash of .255/.328/425 and total of 21 HR, 81 RBI & 187 strikeouts in 652 major league at bats seems reasonable.
It’s easy for us fans to put higher expectations on some of these young players, in hopes that the prospects “live up to the hype”, and in the case of Dylan Carlson I think he has and will continue to. We also have to be patient and realize that while he does play a mature/veteran style of baseball, that he is still just 23 years old.
The sky is the limit for #3, and only time will tell if the projections stick. But in the meantime Dylan Carlson is a great fit for the St. Louis Cardinals on both sides of the ball and both sides of the plate, and both on and off the field.
Carlson handles himself like a true professional. He hustles and works hard to get better everyday, is beloved by his teammates, coaches & ownership, gets involved with charity work around the community (all an embodiment of “the Cardinal Way”) and it will be a thrill for Cardinals Nation continuing to see him develop in 2022 and beyond.
*statistics & projections credit to baseball-reference.com, Steamer & Wikipedia.