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Evaluating Dylan Carlson’s Start to the Season

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Cincinnati Reds Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into the season both the Cardinals organization and its fans were expecting big things from Dylan Carlson who was entering his third season. However, Carlson has played rather poorly to this point in the season. He’s posted career lows across the board and there’s simply not much that points to his numbers changing. With that in mind, what’s gone wrong for the third-year pro?

The good

Carlon’s strikeout percentage of 18.6 percent which is down six percent from last year ranks in the 65th percentile. Additionally, his chase rate of 25 percent sits in the 73rd percentile in the league. His walk percentage of 8.2 percent is down one percent from last season but is still in the 50th percentile in baseball.

Carlson’s whiff rate against breaking balls has dropped from 30.6 percent last season to 22.8 percent this season, and against off-speed pitches, it’s gone from 37.2 percent down to 32.4 thus far.

The switch-hitting Carlson has done a great job at avoiding pop ups this season with a pop-up percentage of only 3.7 percent, and that is 3.4 percent below league average.

Away from the plate his sprint speed of 28.1 feet per second is in the 73rd percentile and his outs above average of +1 is currently in the 63rd percentile.

The bad

Carlson has struggled mightily to make hard contact this season, with his average exit velocity of 85.7 miles per hour, which is down 3.5 miles per hour from last season, ranking in the seventh lowest percentile. In addition to that, his hard-hit percentage (which is batted balls hit 95+ miles per hour) is 24.7 percent, which is in the second-lowest percentile across baseball. Carlson’s xBA of .246 that is marginally below league average in the 47th percentile, is only that high because of the high number of balls he is putting into play — not due to the quality of contact on them. The former first round pick also has an xWOBA of .311, which is in the 42nd percentile, and an xSLG of .311, which is in the 32nd percentile. Notably, Carlson’s launch angle has also dropped significantly going from 15.1 degrees to 11.8 degrees, and his barrel percentage has dropped 2.5 percent, down to 4.6 percent.

Carlson’s weak contact percentage has gone from 3.3 percent to 4.6 percent, which comes in at 0.8 percent above average. He is getting under the ball at too high of a rate this season, with his under percentage of 28.8 percent sitting at 4.6 percent above the league average.

Carlson is being way too patient at the dish with a first pitching swing percentage of 20.6 percent, which is 8.7 percent below league average. This means that Carlson is handing pitchers strike one at a rate that is simply way too high.

His zone contact percentage of 79 percent is the same as last season and falls three percent below league average.

The average

There is a lot to Carlson’s game this season that has been simply average, mainly in his plate discipline. His chase contact percentage of 58.6 percent which is up 5.7 percent is still only 0.2 percent above average. His zone swing percentage of 66.8 percent is below league average by 0.1 percent, and his swing percentage of 46 percent is only 1 percentage below average.

His solid contact percentage of 5.9 percent is above league average, but only by 0.2 percent, and is 1.1 percent below his 2021 mark.

Carlson does not overwork any part of the field with his pull, straight and oppo percentages all falling within 2.5 percent of league average. Additionally, his ground ball and line drive rate fall within 1.5 percent of league average and his fly ball rate is only 4 percent above average.

The verdict

I think we have to take Carlson at what he is, an average to slightly below average baseball player at this current time. He still has plenty of time to turn it all around and reach his All-Star player ceiling, however, at the moment, there are not many signs that point to him even coming close to that.