To say that St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Tyler O’Neill came into his own last season would be an understatement. The 26-year old slugger finally got the chance to be an everyday player for most of the 2021 season.
Last year in 138 games, O’Neill slashed .286/.352/.560 with 34 HR & 80 RBI. He accumulated 138 hits (26 doubles) in 537 plate appearances (482 ABs) , and even tacked on 15 stolen bases for the Cardinals. And that’s just on the offensive side of the ball.
O’Neill won his second straight Gold Glove Award at left field, joining teammates Harrison Bader, Nolan Arenado, Tommy Edman, & Paul Goldschmidt in an MLB record breaking achievement for most Gold Gloves by a single team. Tyler was also a back to back Fielding Bible Award winner, winning it in 2020 & 2021.
The defense shouldn’t have came as a surprise, as mentioned Tyler also won the Gold Glove Award in 2020, where he led MLB left fielders with 9 defensive runs saved, 4 outs above average and did not commit a single error in over 344 innings.
His batting during that shortened season was concerning as he only slashed .173/.261/.360 with 7 HR, 19 RBI and 43 strikeouts in 50 games.
Going back to last season, people might have forgotten, but Tyler finished 8th in MVP voting in 2021 with an excellent 5.4 fWAR & 6.3 bWAR. His 6.3 bWAR ranked 12th in all of MLB with teammate Paul Goldschmidt right behind him at 6.2 bWAR.
O’Neill was a catalyst for the Cardinals winning streak in September when he was moved up in the lineup to bat third. The flexibility of power and speed, as well as taking good at-bats might intrigue St. Louis skipper Oliver Marmol to start the 2022 season with T.O. back in the 3-spot.
Currently looking at Steamer 2022 projections for Tyler O’Neill, they have him at a slashline of .251/.318/.496 with 37 HR & 100 RBI and striking out 191 times in 567 at-bats. ZiPS has him projected at a .266/.334/.535 slash with 35 HR & 89 RBI, along with striking out 174 times in 497 at-bats.
For his career, O’Neill has played in 309 games over 4 seasons with the Cardinals, tallying 232 hits (42 doubles), 55 HR, 138 RBI, 21 stolen bases, 70 walks & 321 strikeouts in 987 plate appearances. According to baseball-reference.com, that parlays into a 162-game average slashline of .260/.324/.497 with 29 HR, 72 RBI, 37 walks and 168 strikeouts.
In his first couple of seasons for St. Louis, it was hard for Tyler to have that true spot for the Cardinals aside from a pinch hitting /substitute role. Marcell Ozuna & Dexter Fowler had everyday duties and once both had left, it opened up playing time and a position. John Mozeliak could finally see what he had on the other side of the Marco Gonzales trade that brought O’Neill over to the Cardinals in 2017.
I think Mo & company were thrilled at the production from Tyler this past season, but it has been rumored that the front office is a still a bit concerned with O’Neill’s injury history (and probably some of the backfires of other recent contract extensions) when it comes to offering him one prior to the upcoming season.
He’s still under contract through 2025, and having Scott Boras as his agent, it might make sense that the Cardinals wait and see if he can duplicate another great season before offering an extension.
Will the Cardinals get a repeat of 2021’s performance out of the “Canadian Crusher” next season? If he can keep flexing that “maple leaf muscle” with power numbers, consistent batting average, great speed & flashy fielding, then we may see O’Neill breakout from an already impressive 2021 to being a legitimate MVP candidate in the National League.
That’s not to put pressure on him, but me being optimistic and having seen what Tyler O’Neill is capable of on a game to game basis, it’s not unreasonable to think that the best is yet to come.
What are your thoughts or projections on Tyler O’Neill? Do you think he goes for a third straight gold glove in 2022? Will he become a more feared hitter in the Cardinals lineup this season? Let us know in the comments and as always thanks for reading & Go Cards!