Dylan Carlson Could Be Poised For A Breakthrough

One way to read the impression a young player has made in big league camp isn’t just how long he stays or how often his locker moves, but how often he plays.

By that measure, 20-year-old outfielder Dylan Carlson has created a stir.

The switch-hitter and youngest player in camp was a regular in the lineup in left or right field. Through the first 13 games of Grapefruit League play, he had the third-most at-bats, while proving reliable in the field and patient at the plate.

Late in one of his starts, Carlson drilled a home run off Mets all-star closer Edwin Diaz.

“He looks like he belongs,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said.

Carlson, a 2016 first-rounder out of Elk Grove (Calif.) High, is earmarked for Double-A Springfield, where the Cardinals would like to see him try center field. Internally, the organization sees him as primed for an offensive breakthrough.

At high Class A Palm Beach, in a ballpark that muzzles hitters, Carlson hit .247/.345/.386 with nine home runs in 99 games. He drew 52 walks against 78 walks in the Florida State League after earning a promotion from low Class A Peoria after 13 games.  

Carlson has been one of the youngest players at every level of his development, and he will be again as a 20-year-old all season in the Texas League.

“Even growing up I was always one of the young guys on the team,” Carlson said. “I just come ready to learn. That’s my goal.”

The son of a high school baseball coach, Carlson picked up switch-hitting while watching one of his father’s players hit from the left side. His father nurtured it and that added to his appeal on draft day. The diligence to balance his swing may have contributed to what scouts see as a seasoned and studied feel for the strike zone.

What comes next is the development of damage at the plate. He already has received validation for his plate approach from his FSL play.

“You focus on the process more than the results, definitely,” Carlson said. “(Playing in the FSL was) something that it made me just really trust myself more—and understand that I was going about it the right way.”


— Farm director Gary LaRocque won the organization’s George Kissell Award for excellence in player development. The honor, given annually, often goes to a member of the uniformed coaching staff in the minors, and current big league manager Mike Shildt has been a previous winner.

— The Cardinals’ first pick in the 2017 draft came after the first two rounds because of penalties imposed for the Astros hacking scandal. Their first selection, outfielder Scott Hurst, appeared several times in big league exhibition games, and he homered in his first Grapefruit League game—against the Astros.

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