Cardinals 'cleared the deck' for young outfielders; Time for Carlson, others to take advantage

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By NewsRadio 1120 KMOX

(KMOX) - Monday is the first day of full-squad workouts and Spring Training for the St. Louis Cardinals and it will be the first chance for a handful of young outfield prospects to earn a role in the starting lineup.

The most exciting of the bunch is someone who's been among the top Cardinals prospects for the past few seasons – Dylan Carlson. The 22-year-old got his first taste of the big leagues in 2020. And he really started to impress after he was demoted from the Majors for week in early September.

When he returned to the bigs, his batting average nearly doubled to .256 and his slugging percentage nearly tripled to .564 in the last 13 games of the regular season.

"When you looked at how he played when he was up here that second time, he knew he belonged," said president of baseball operations John Mozeliak was asked specifically about Carlson. "It's not like we have threshold hurdles that he needs to cross. It's just really a comfort level of understanding that, one, he's going to get an opportunity. And, two, he'll have confidence when he gets that opportunity."

There's a group of six players competing for what will likely be five OF spots on the Opening Day roster: Harrison Bader, Carlson, Austin Dean, Tyler O’Neill, Lane Thomas and Justin Williams.

Based on how they were used in 2020, in the lead are probably Bader, Carlson and O'Neill for starting roles, as Mozeliak says he does see Carlson getting more reps in right field and O'Neill in left this spring. But it's an open competition for all three starting spots since everyone in that group can play at least two of the three positions.

"The one thing I would say if I were sitting down talking to (that group), I'd say 'This is a great opportunity. We've cleared the deck for you. Try to take advantage of it,'" Mozeliak says. "I hope to connect with that group over the next few days and just let them know that I see what they're looking at and what they should see if opportunity."

When talking about how he expects the offense to improve this year, outside of adding Nolan Arenado, he also mentioned the outfield, and again, Carlson specifically.

"We expect more production out of (the outfield). And I do think over a longer sample size, the 162 now, you're going to see that production," Mozeliak says. "Somebody like a Dylan Carlson, is someone that I do think over a full is going to be a producer in our lineup."

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