Since being drafted 33rd overall in the 2016 Draft, Dylan Carlson has generated buzz in Cardinals circles while remaining under the radar nationally. The scouting consensus at the time was that the pick was a bit of a reach, seeing #33 being too rich for a likely first base only fit with good-not-great tools. Our own A.E. Schafer liked him from the beginning, and went as far to rank him #5 in the system this year while pinning a Lance Berkman comp on his game. Carlson’s done a lot to justify Schafer’s confidence, performing at every level despite being moved aggressively and being very, very young relative to his competition.
His 50 game debut in the GCL didn’t jump out on paper (.251/.313/.404) but was good for a 115 wRC+. He displayed solid if unspectacular plate discipline, walking 8.0% of the time while striking out in 25.9% of his trips to the plate. A .153 ISO hinted at the raw power potential inherent in his frame, and the whole body of work provided a solid starting point for such a young player.
Fast forward to 2017, and Carlson was pushed aggressively to the Midwest League. The switch-hitter would spend the entire season in Peoria, despite being only 18 years old. Over 115 games, he kept his head above water against much older competition. His walk rate increased to double-digits, his strikeout rate held steady, and while his power output dropped to a .107 ISO, his overall line ran for a 101 wRC+.
Carlson opened the 2018 where he left off at Peoria, but quickly showed improvements that earned a promotion to palm beach. There, in the power sapping environment of the Florida State League, he looked like a hitter right on the verge of putting it all together. He built on the plate discipline improvements of 2017, keeping his walk rate around 11% while simultaneously slashing his strikeout rate to 17.7%. Meanwhile, he showed more power than the previous season (.138 ISO) despite hitting in one of the most unfriendly environments in the minors.
Overall, Carlson looks like a prime breakout candidate for 2019. He’ll play the entire season at 20 years old, which still seems quite remarkable to me given how long it feels like he’s been around. I’m bullish, and willing to bet big on a power surge upon his release from Palm Beach power-hell. That, combined with the strike zone improvements made over 2017 and 2018, could make for a very fearsome hitter.
So, what do you think his 2019 campaign will look like?