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Tyler O'Neill Has New Role Model Available In Paul Goldschmidt

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(Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

JUPITER, Fla. — Tyler O’Neill is one of the premier righthanded power-hitting prospects in baseball.

He now has one of the game’s premier righthanded power hitters to look up to in Paul Goldschmidt.

Goldschmidt will make his Cardinals spring debut on Sunday afternoon, with O’Neill batting right behind him in the cleanup spot.

O’Neill, the Cardinals' No. 2 prospect and No. 36 on the BA Top 100, hit 35 home runs between Triple-A and the majors last season. The career of Goldschmidt, a six-time All-Star who has averaged 30 home runs per season over the last six years, is one he knows is worthy of trying to emulate.

"He’s a really good dude from what I’ve gathered,” O’Neill said. "Obviously a decorated first baseman and one of the better hitters in the game too. His way of success is different than other people’s way of success, so you’ve gotta pick and choose your information, and whatever works for you, works for you.”

Where O’Neill could pick up the most from Goldschmidt is in the contact department. Goldschmidt has maintained his status as an elite power hitter while batting at least .290 and keeping his strikeout rate below 25 percent each of the last six seasons.

O’Neill, 23, slowly improved his strikeout rate in the minors, but it spiked to 40 percent last season in his first taste of the majors.

"I missed some pitches over the plate because I was a little too steep, a little too short with my hands, and that’s all a feel thing,” O’Neill said. "Everybody’s got their own way to get loaded and get back. I felt like I was too steep. Everything is feeling good right now, we’ll see what happens in the game.”

Goldschmidt is still getting to know his new teammates after coming over from the D-backs in a blockbuster offseason trade, but he’s already taken note of O’Neill’s strength and power.

Whenever it’s needed, he’ll be there to share whatever knowledge he can pass on.

"Obviously I’m the new guy and there’s a lot of very accomplished players here so I’m trying to learn from them,” Goldschmidt said, "but I think there’s also some knowledge I’ve learned along the way. Not anything I invented, but stuff I learned from other great hitting coaches or managers or players. We’re all in this together and just try to keep sharing out knowledge to be the best team we can be.”

FAST FRIENDS AT THIRD BASE

The Cardinals’ two premium third base prospects are starting to get to know one another.

Nolan Gorman and Elehuris Montero have already become throwing partners in camp and are increasingly striking up a friendship.

Gorman, the Cardinals' No. 4 prospect, is in his first camp after being drafted last summer. Montero, St. Louis’ No. 5 prospect, is entering his third season in the U.S. after signing out of the Dominican Republic.

"There is a language barrier, but we get past it,” Gorman said. "Sign language is always good. He’s been good. He’s helped me and I’ve helped him as well I’d say.”

Montero, 20, won the Midwest League MVP award at low Class A Peoria last year and finished the year at high Class A Palm Beach. Gorman, 18, hit 11 home runs in 38 games in the Appalachian League after signing was promoted to Peoria to take Montero’s place after the latter was promoted to Palm Beach.

Gorman is the higher-ranked prospect, but Montero is older and more accomplished. As such, Gorman is paying close attention to Montero in camp and seeing what he can pick up.

"His batting practice and how relaxed he is,” Gorman said. "He can just drive the ball to the opposite field, he can pull it, he’s really advanced up at the plate with an approach. That’s probably what has been most impressive.”

ALEX REYES UPDATE

Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said righthander Alex Reyes will throw live batting practice on Monday and be re-evaluated afterward.

Reyes, the Cardinals' No. 1 prospect, had season-ending surgery for a torn lat tendon after his one start in the majors last year. It was his second-straight season-ending surgery after Tommy John surgery wiped out his entire 2017.

As such, the Cardinals are taking it slow this spring and have no set timetable for when he will pitch in games.

"He’s doing great,” Shildt said. "He’s in a great spot.”

ANDREW KNIZNER KICKS OUT TO FIRST

Andrew Knizner will bounce around the diamond a bit this spring. After starting at catcher in the Cardinals' spring training opener, Knizner will back up Goldschmidt at first base on Sunday.

Knizner, the Cardinals' No. 8 prospect, caught exclusively last year at Double-A Springfield and Triple-A Memphis. He last played first base in the 2017 Arizona Fall League.

"We’ll see what he looks like, see what he’s doing, get him some new experiences,” Shildt said. "I don’t have a lot of time with him . . . so the more he gets to play the more we get to become familiar with him.”

Knizner, 24 is more highly regarded for his bat than his defense. He hit .313/.368/.430 last year, but allowed 10 passed balls in 90 games and threw out just 26.7 percent of runners.

Shildt noted Knizner is still seen as a catcher long-term by the organization.

"(First base) is not a huge position for him,” Shildt said. "It’s just more of an opportunity, based on where we are and what we have, and creating opportunities to see what he can do there.”

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Baseball America Spring Training Prospect Report -- March 19, 2019

Alex Reyes and Dakota Hudson both post sterling stat lines, albeit in very different roles for the Cardinals, plus check-ins on three separate middle infield prospects.

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