An Outfield Stream Of Consciousness:
1–Memo: The Cardinals’ outfield competition isn’t between Tyler O’Neill and Lane Thomas for the starting job in left field. (And the largest share of playing time in LF.) Thomas can play center field. O’Neill can play center, though not as well as he handles LF. Because of his defense Harrison Bader has been the primary CF for a while, but that doesn’t mean he’s set to play 140 games out there in 2021.
If we assume Dylan Carlson will set up in right field and pretty much stay there, the competition: three guys for two spots (LF and CF.) That would be O’Neill, Thomas and Bader. That’s workable.
2–Actually here’s a better way to look at the outfield puzzle that really isn’t a puzzle: again, if the bulk of the playing time is divided among four players — Carlson, O’Neill, Bader and Thomas — this should be easy. I really don’t understand why some good folks in the media are getting all fussy over this, and wanting to have all three positions locked in by one Cardinal. That’s absurd.
Why? Because Bader, Carlson, Thomas and O’Neill can be utilized in center field. That’s not a common thing, to have four people capable of playing center when needed there. And if they can play center, they can migrate to left or right field without a hitch.
3–So what’s the problem here? Answer: there isn’t one unless multiple STL outfielders flop. Which is a separate issue. But as far as getting started on outfield-lineup looks, there’s no reason for hot-take nonsense right now.
I like what Brewers GM David Stearns said the other day after being pestered about playing time in the Milwaukee outfield. The Brewers have Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain, newcomer Jackie Bradley Jr., and corner outfielder Avisail Garcia.
2,100 plate appearances.
Not. A. Crisis.
“We always care about depth regardless of the circumstances,” Stearns said. “If we look at three outfield positions, conservatively there are 2,100 plate appearances. That’s a lot of playing time. That’s a lot of plate appearances. We want as good of players as possible to consume all of those.”
4–I’m thinking Cardinals manager Mike Shildt can come up with a system that gives ample opportunities to the four main outfielders. And at some point — if it becomes obvious that playing-time levels should be adjusted based on performance — then Shildt can adapt.
5–Unless, of course, Shildty and president of baseball ops John Mozeliak are determined to give Matt Carpenter a significant portion of at-bats even if M-Carp is struggling to hit. That would lead to second baseman Tommy Edman being transferred to the outfield for a bunch of games … which sort of ruins the whole idea of the Cardinals finding out, once and for all, about outfielders O’Neill, Thomas and Bader.
6–Giving Carpenter an unwarranted share of plate appearances (if he doesn’t deserve them) would also block much of the playing-time rout for rookie outfielder Justin Williams. If Carpenter hits well, arrangements can be made. If Carpenter doesn’t hit well, then forget about making accommodations. I’m not picking on Carpenter, but merit has to be at the center of the decision-making process on playing time.
7–And what about Austin Dean? Who will speak up and lead the campaign for A. Dean? I think he’s a sleeper. Kind of.
8–That’s OK. Jhon Torres will be taking somebody’s outfield job out before long.
Here’s Keith Law, writing in The Athletic: “Torres has been in the Cardinals’ system since July 2018 but hasn’t played above Low A yet, so he seems like he’s far away, but if reports of him finally filling out and starting to drive the ball farther are true he might move quickly through the high minors … I have heard enough positive things from scouts to rank him highly (No. 6) within the Cardinals’ system going into this season.”
Thanks for reading …
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For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.
While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.
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