Dylan Carlson Goes To Alternate Site With New Focus
In outfielder Dylan Carlson’s first turn in the majors, the Cardinals’ top prospect learned quickly that his reputation preceded him.
The level was new to him, but he was not new to the level.
“I think the league adjusted and started treating him like he had been a 15-year all-star and pitched him tougher than anybody in the game,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “A lot of soft stuff.”
Carlson, 21, reached the majors as the Cardinals returned from quarantine and needed reinforcements at almost every position. Carlson played early and often until outfielders returned from the coronavirus, and the switch-hitting rookie saw his playing time decrease, then vanish.
Carlson watched a handful of games from the seats before being optioned to the alternate training site. The team called the demotion a “reset” for Carlson.
The 2016 first-rounder from Elk Grove (Calif.) High left with a .162/.215/.243 slash line, and strong indicators of hard hits and hard luck started to drift as his approach did. Three out of every five pitches he saw were either a breaking ball or changeup, and he saw more changeups than any other Cardinal.
“Down in the levels before, I (was) pitched to similarly," Carlson said. "It’s kind of been the trend. I wasn’t aware of how it would be up here. Sometimes you have a feeling that a good pitch is coming, and then kind of chase because you know you can hit it.”
Carlson’s first career home run came on a slider.
He sank into a slump from there, with one hit and six strikeouts in the 18 at-bats before his demotion. His frustration and eagerness to force production were most apparent with runners in scoring position—he went 3-for-24 (.125).
The Cardinals wanted Carlson to get armloads of at-bats at the minor league camp, where they could simulate situations, and get him looks against specific pitchers and pitches. He went there with a new focus after his first look at the majors.
He knew what to look for.
“Dylan Carlson,” Shildt said, “is going to be fine.”
— Charles Peterson, the scout who signed 2020 first-round pick Jordan Walker for the Cardinals, died Sept. 13 after several weeks of battling COVID-19. He was 46. Peterson joined the Cardinals in 2012 but had long been a fixture around pro and amateur baseball. He was selected 22nd overall in the 1993 draft by the Pirates, and he played six seasons for its affiliates before a long career spent in independent ball.
— Righthander Kodi Whitley had his rookie season sidetracked by the coronavirus during the Cardinals’ outbreak in the first week of the regular season, and then elbow soreness delayed his return. The club intends to be exceedingly cautious with the young reliever, who could be a late-inning factor in 2021.