Who is Tyler O’Neill, other than the reason Marco Gonzales now plays for the Mariners? Baseball America ranked him as the second-best prospect in the Mariners’ system and he’s a proud Canadian. Those are the first two things I discovered upon my initial Google search which is, obviously, the best way to evaluate new prospects. O’Neill is a right-handed outfielder (Golly gee, St. Louis sure can’t have enough of those!) who was the 85th overall selection in the 2013 draft.
Now, one system’s second-best prospect may be the fifteenth-best in another. The Chicago White Sox have everyone from Yoan Moncada to Lucas Giolito to Charlie Tilson, so a number-one prospect for a system like the Royals or Angels could be the ninth-ranked prospect for the White Sox. But Tyler O’Neill was ranked as the #38 overall prospect at the end of last season, making this a good pickup for the Cardinals.
His stat line is fairly impressive. He is batting .244/.328/.386 in 396 plate appearances this season after a fairly slow start. It is probable that the Cardinals really liked what they’ve seen from him in the past twenty-five games.
Tyler O'Neill in his last 27 games:— Mariners Minors (@MiLBMariners) July 20, 2017
.324/.430/.745/1.175, 33H, 4 2B, 13HR, 25R, 30RBI, 18BB, 32K, 1HBP, 4SB. #Rainiers
But that line is a little deceptive. You see eleven homers right there, but five of them came in four days against one pitching staff. Four of those twenty-five games were against the Albuquerque Isotopes. (That’s a stadium elevation of about 5300 feet.) He hit one homer in each of the first three games and capped off the series with two bombs yesterday. This resulted in a forty-two point jump in his overall slugging percentage. See this piece in the Seattle Times for the full recap of O’Neill’s homer-packed series.
It is a solid indication, though, of what he is capable of at the plate. His slugging percentage decreased as he moved up through the Mariners system, but it’s currently sitting at .479! His strikeout rate subtly decreased each season since 2014, until this year when he reached triple-A and it bounced back up to 27.3 percent, perhaps because he’s seeing some more offspeed pitches. He is homer-happy, seems to hit his bombs in bulk, and strikes out at least a quarter of the time due in part to pitches outside the zone. Remind you of anyone?
O’Neill really seemed to evolve as a hitter last season, seeing an even larger drop in his strikeout rate. He batted .293 with 24 homers, 102 RBIs and a career-best 26.1 percent strikeout rate before making a run at the Triple Crown. He won the RBI title and league MVP along with finishing second in total homers.
He also seems to be fairly good at stealing bases, something the Cardinals need rather desperately. He had 10 stolen bases in twelve attempts last season, and has nine stolen bases in eleven attempts over the first half of 2017. His speed is also rated very highly considering his build. This is probably my favourite description of him:
“When you think of [O’Neill], the first mental images are of towering home runs, laser line drives, a chiseled frame of a body builder … and nonstop intensity in every action on the baseball field.”
Some other fun factoids:
- He has a tattoo in the shape of a maple leaf
- His father won the Mr. Canada bodybuilding competition in 1975
- He plays the piano
The question I have now is when will O’Neill have a chance to make an impact for St. Louis? Servais had some observations:
Tyler is very confident young man … He’s been great. He’s handled everything that we’ve thrown at him … He’s obviously a very good and talented player. It’s only a matter of time before he gets to impact us in Seattle. It could be sooner rather than later. The future is certainly bright for him.
It sounds like Tyler O’Neill has the capability to play in St. Louis this season. He is hitting the ball hard, and appears to be solid defensively. Check out this play:
The Cardinals go after right-handed outfielders like I go after Krispy Kreme donuts; I shouldn’t buy a dozen at a time, but I am tempted to do it anyway. After iffy seasons from Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty, it’s reasonable that the Cardinals don’t want to place all their bets on the health of Tommy Pham. O’Neill was a good acquisition which gives Magneuris Sierra additional time to develop his skills in the minor leagues. I think this was a good move and I think we’ll end up liking Tyler O’Neill.
. . .
Audrey Stark is a contributor at Viva El Birdos. You can follow her on Twitter @highstarksunday.