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2017 Viva El Birdos Cardinals Top Prospects: #20 Dylan Carlson

This high school draft pick has us dreaming of Lance Berkman

2011 World Series Game 6 - Texas Rangers v St Louis Cardinals
Good times
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Editor’s Note: the red baron has once again written up a very large number of prospects, done a great job on them, and combined them in just a few posts. You can read those posts, including a dozen reports on players who just missed the list by going here. This post contains a write-up of just a single prospect in a perhaps easier to digest form.-CE

#20: Dylan Carlson, OF/1B

6’3”, 200 lbs; S/L; 23 October 1998

Relevant Stats: 17 years old, 115 wRC+, .153 ISO (Gulf Coast League)

So, what’s so great about this guy?

Like Walker Robbins, the lefty-swinging first base/outfield type who showed up in the just-missed section, Dylan Carlson was selected by the Cardinals this past June for what he can do with a bat in his hands. Unlike Robbins, however, Carlson proved he was up to the challenge of professional ball at just seventeen, putting up a productive hitting line as a key part of the Cards’ GCL championship club.

Not that it was easy for Carlson; he got off to a very slow start initially before seeming to find his stride in the second half of the season. He also put up those numbers while playing center field, a position he most definitely will not be playing by the time he gets into the upper minors.

The offensive package Carlson brings to the table is tough not to be excited about; he offers power potential from both sides of the plate (left especially), remarkably sound swings both lefty and righty, and strike zone judgment that is advanced beyond his years. He’ll grow into greater power as he matures, but even at seventeen he showed an ability to put the ball in the air with power.

Carlson moves well enough for now to handle center, but I doubt that will last. And in fact, position is one of the real questions I have regarding his future. He runs well enough to play in the outfield, and his arm is strong enough to handle right. I don’t think he’s going to be Jason Heyward out there, but he moves around well enough out there. On the other hand, simply watching Carlson run through fielding drills is enough to be struck by how elegant and graceful his footwork is, to the point I think he could be a truly extraordinary defender at first. I understand wanting versatility from a player, so you aren’t locked in to a Matt Adams at first base situation, but there’s a chance Carlson could simply be so good on the infield that you don’t really want him to play anywhere else. Time will tell, but I have to say watching his footwork at first base is like watching a fish swim.

He has a big frame, with broad shoulders, and he’s got plenty of room to fill out. He looked soft through the middle when I saw him this spring, but that’s most likely part of the simple growth spurt cycle teenagers go through. What little video I saw of him after the draft he looked a little leaner, closer to the athlete he appeared to be on the showcase circuit last summer. In all likelihood, he’s fine, but this is a big kid all the same, and he’ll need to be diligent about his conditioning to maintain his athleticism as he fills out and gets stronger.

There’s no player the Cardinals took in the 2016 draft who is going to outstrip the excitement of Delvin Perez, the closest thing to a consensus top five talent the Redbirds have gotten hold of in close to 20 years. (At the time of the draft, I mean.) Carlson is tremendously exciting in his own right, though, and could, I believe, end up looking like a draft-day bargain down the road a bit, even as he was seen as a money saving pick at the time. The offensive ceiling is that high.

Player Comp: Switch hitter, power from both sides, advanced plate discipline, best at first base but can handle the outfield. If Carlson ultimately makes it, he’ll probably end up looking something like Lance Berkman, though admittedly without Berkman’s pure hitting ability. But as far as the type of player Carlson could become, that’s what you’re looking toward. (Side note: I love the sponsor of Big Puma’s Baseball-Reference page. I’ll let you look it up on your own if you like, though; I don’t feel like listening to any bitching this morning.)

via The Prospect Pipeline: