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Viva El Birdos Cardinals 2018 Prospect Rankings: #14 Dylan Carlson

Young switch-hitter advanced for age

MiLB: SEP 07 Gulf Coast League Championship Game #3 -  GCL Cardinals at GCL Phillies Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Editor’s Note: A.E. Schafer aka the red baron has once again compiled a rather impressive list of Cardinals prospects doing a write-up on 40 individual prospects. As a convenience to our readers, he releases the list in a couple big chunks so everyone can read about all of the prospects at once. While that is a convenience to all of us who eagerly await the arrival of prospect lists, it might not be as convenient if you are looking for a player’s particular scouting report. So, as a further convenience, we are putting the individual scouting reports in separate posts to make individual players easier to find. You can find the full lists on our 2018 prospect page here. —CE

#14: Dylan Carlson, OF

6’3”, 195 lbs; Bats/Throws: Switch/Left

DOB: 23 October 1998; Drafted Rd 1 Supplemental 2016

Level(s) in 2017: Peoria (Low A)

Notable Numbers: 451 PA, 101 wRC+, 11.5% BB, 25.7% K, 18 years old

So, what’s so great about this guy?

As you can see, Dylan Carlson had an okay season at Peoria. He was a shade better than a league-average hitter, he drew a lot of walks, he struck out more than you’d like at that level, and he didn’t hit for a ton of power, with just a .107 ISO. By pretty much any reasonable standard, one would say that Dylan Carlson was fine, but did not dominate, and never really put up the kind of numbers a player should if he’s going to appear on top prospect lists.

Here’s the thing about that phrase, ‘reasonable standard’, though: it goes both ways. If it’s fair to look askance at a player’s numbers and ask why he deserves to be ranked where he is, then it’s also fair to use that context to override the pure numerical reality of things. Dylan Carlson had a perfectly fine, average sort of year in Peoria, in the Midwest League, where it’s cold in the spring and very few of the ballparks are really all that hitter friendly.

And for every single day of that season where he was perfectly fine, just nothing super special, Dylan Carlson was eighteen years old. Playing at a level teams are extremely hesitant to send college juniors directly after the draft.

In other words, Carlson is ranked as much for his precociousness as his production at this point.

Of course, age isn’t the only thing he has going for him. He’s already a very dangerous left-handed hitter, capable of punishing mistakes that catch too much of the plate. His approach at the plate is outstanding. The swing and miss this year was a little concerning, but a 12% walk rate helps out a whole lot when it comes to keeping an OBP up. He has plus raw power from both sides of the plate, in addition to that natural feel for the zone and patient approach. Offensively, the ceiling is very high for Carlson.

The bad news on that front is that, well, he sucks at hitting from the right side. The swing is ugly, the approach is worse, he swings and misses a whole lot more, and he doesn’t show anywhere near as much power potential. It’s much too early to suggest he should give up switch-hitting, but it’s certainly something to watch. Developing two swings can be tricky, which is probably the main reason why switch hitters are still the exception, rather than the rule, in spite of how useful it is to always possess the platoon advantage.

On the defensive side, Carlson looks to be a very solid defender in a corner outfield spot. He’s got a strong enough arm for right, and the Cardinals have even tried him a bit in center, though that’s not a realistic spot for him, particularly long term. He looked slightly heavy and soft his senior year of high school, but was leaner and stronger this season, it seemed.

Personally, while the Cardinals seem inclined to give Carlson every chance in the world to play the outfield, I’m a big fan of him at first base. He certainly moves well enough to stick in left or right, but he had some of the more remarkable footwork I think I’ve ever seen from a high school kid at first base prior to the draft. Moving a guy down the defensive spectrum in the minors generally isn’t done unless the player just can’t handle a give spot, but I would love to see Carlson move to first full time. I think he’ll be a fine defender in the outfield. At first, with his arm and the way he moved around the bag, I think he could be something special.

If he’s good, it will look like: I made the same comp last year, and I’m sticking with Lance Berkman as the idealised version of what Dylan Carlson could be someday.

via 2080 Baseball: