Young Cardinals Outfielders On The Cusp
As the Cardinals consider ways to goose an inconsistent offense and look for an answer in left field, a quick scan of their roster provides optimism.
At least they have numbers on their side.
With Marcell Ozuna’s possible departure as a free agent, the Cardinals are looking within for his replacement, banking on one or two prospect outfielders to provide the production the club isn’t sure it can find via trade. The Cardinals are carrying eight outfielders on their 40-man roster and a ninth, top prospect Dylan Carlson, is set to compete for a job as a non-roster invite to big league camp.
"We like a lot of our young outfielders, and we want to give them an opportunity,” general manager Michael Girsch said. "Are we comfortable going in with the guys that we have and letting them battle it out in spring training and throughout the season? Yeah. We’re excited about the group and feel like there’s a lot of potential there.”
That "group” includes several of the top performers at Triple-A Memphis: Randy Arozarena, who had a 1.028 OPS in 64 games; Adolis Garcia, who hit 21 homers with an .818 OPS; Tyler O’Neill, who has hit 68 homers in his past three seasons at Triple-A; Lane Thomas, who led the organization in homers in 2018; and Justin Williams, the lone lefthanded hitter of the group who hit .296/.372/.484 in 53 games after he returned from injury.
The 21-year-old Carlson won the Texas League MVP award and came up just shy of a 20-20 season while hitting .292/.372/.542.
From many, the Cardinals hope several emerge and challenge for starts in left, center or right field. The organization sees Arozarena, O’Neill and Thomas on the cusp of the majors.
Thomas would have been a featured outfielder in September had he not fractured his hand. They like the mix of speed and power from that trio and plan to bank an individual—or in aggregate—can outperform the .794 OPS the Cardinals got from left field, or the .717 OPS they got from center.
"We have to figure out what we exactly have,” president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said.
— For what could be his first healthy, normal offseason in three years, righthander Alex Reyes, once ranked among the top pitching prospects in all of baseball, will spend some of his winter working out at the Cardinals’ Dominican Republic academy and with a personal trainer. The Cardinals will assess his health and strength in spring training but hope he can contribute, likely as a reliever, in 2020.
— As the Cardinals consider backups for shortstop Paul DeJong, prospect Edmundo Sosa has seized upon early playing time in the winter Dominican League. Sosa, a solid fielder, had hit .322/.381/.483 with three homers and 20 strikeouts through his first 21 games for Cibaenas.