ST. LOUIS — When the St. Louis Cardinals engaged in trade talks two weeks ago, one player was off-limits: Dylan Carlson. You are finding out why today with Carlson being promoted to Memphis, the Triple-A club.
Carlson is just 20 years old, but don't let the birth certificate fool you. His bat is a highly-seasoned weapon that's shredding the minor leagues at a breakneck pace.
At the beginning of the 2018 season, the Cardinals No. 2 prospect was taking at-bats for Peoria, the organization's Class A affiliate. After progressing through Peoria onto Palm Beach, Carlson started out with the Double-A team this year, the Springfield Cardinals.
In just 108 games, Carlson has smoked 21 homers, 24 doubles, compiled an .882 OPS, and stolen 18 bases. He's patrolled center field very well, yet can play all over the outfield if needed. He has average speed, but knows how to run the bases, and is a smart baseball player, drawing 52 walks this year in addition to his 98 strikeouts.
It wasn't always a cake walk for the 2016 first round pick (along with Dakota Hudson). Three years ago, the switch hitter tripped out of the gate in the Rookie League, striking out more often than collecting hits (52 to 46) in just 50 games. 2017 wasn't much better, with Carlson striking out 116 times in just 115 games, with an OPS of .690.
2018 showed subtle, yet not substantial movement, with Carlson spending a little time in Peoria before moving up to Palm Beach, where he finished with a .731 OPS. But the power started to increase, and Carlson finished with 31 extra base hits in 99 games there.
2019 changed things. One wouldn't have placed even a moderate bet on Carlson ascending so quickly through the system after such struggles, yet here we are. August 15, and he gets the call to go to Memphis. Once again, the numbers don't lie. The near .900 OPS is one thing, but the higher amount of walks and better hits to strikeouts ratio are big reasons.
Carlson can't even buy a drink legally yet (that'll happen in late October), but he will be donning a Memphis jersey for the final two weeks of the minor league season.
While it's only a cup of coffee, the quick rise can't be mistaken. Carlson's movement shows you why the team hung an "off-limits" sign around his neck in late July. Teams called, and John Mozeliak said no.
When discussing Carlson in late July, Mozeliak mentioned it wasn't worth trading him away for a rental. While the reported asking price for Zack Wheeler was Harrison Bader and Tyler O'Neill, perhaps the prospect list was spoken about as well. We'll never know for sure, but Carlson could have been involved.
Here's the facts. Carlson will finish the season in Memphis, but a September call-up is still a bet I wouldn't make.
The team is stuffed with outfielders, hastily finding time for Lane Thomas and Randy Arozarena, much less a talent like Carlson. It'd be best to wait on that call-up unless a drastic need opened up (or Tommy Edman was seen out there again!).
At 20 years old, letting Carlson start fresh in Memphis next season is the right move. Before long, with the expected departure of Marcell Ozuna and unsure status of Bader, Carlson could see another rise in 2020. It's about time the Cardinals put their prospect cultivation where their mouth is. Ride the youth, see where it goes.
If Dylan Carlson is any hint, the future could be very bright.