The St. Louis Cardinals entered the 2020 campaign knowing they might need more in terms of outfield production. But they also had a top prospect waiting in the wings.
Dylan Carlson has long been on the Redbirds' radar. The 21-year-old was ranked as the No. 17 prospect in baseball, according to MLB.com, and it seemed likely after the team's summer camp he would have the opportunity to get some at-bats at the big league level.
Cardinals outfielders have struggled in the early goings, notably center fielder Harrison Bader. Once a top prospect himself, Bader is just 1-for-11 to start the season. Considering Bader is coming off a season in which he hit .205 with a .680 OPS, it would seem the Cardinals would be open to promoting Carlson so as to spark a sense of competition.
But fans anticipating Carlson's MLB debut will have to wait a while longer.
Mark Saxon of The Athletic reported Carlson will most likely not be joining the team for its weekend slate against the Milwaukee Brewers. Saxon said that Carlson has not been named to the taxi squad and also added "as of midday Thursday, the Cardinals hadn't asked Carlson to start his engine, per a source."
This does not mean Carlson's debut is not on the horizon. The Cardinals offense has sputtered over the course of the last few games.
St. Louis has lost each of its last three, scoring a combined four runs in those losses. The Cardinals were held to just one run by Mitch Keller and the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday and did not advance a single runner into scoring position against Minnesota Twins veteran left-hander Rich Hill on Wednesday, as Saxon noted.
Outfielder Tyler O'Neill has a pair of homers in the team's first five games, but those bombs account for two of just three hits in 15 at-bats. Dexter Fowler has fared slightly better, though he has struck out six times in 17 plate appearances. Lane Thomas is hitless in four plate appearances off the bench.
Still, it is Bader who seems to be the most glaring hole in the Cardinals lineup. The 26-year-old has a career strikeout rate approaching 29 percent, per FanGraphs. This includes five punch-outs in his first 13 plate appearances in 2020.
Granted, five games does not offer much in terms of a sample size. But given the Cardinals are dealing with a more competitive National League Central division and a shortened season, might now be the time to give Carlson a look in the outfield?
Carlson excelled in the minors last season. He hit 21 homers and stole 18 bases in 108 games at Double-A last season before slashing .361/.418/.681 with five homers, four doubles and a pair of triples in 18 games at the Triple-A level.
The Cardinals are looking for a run-producer in the outfield after losing Marcell Ozuna in free agency, and it is possible Carlson is the eventual solution. But for now, the youngster will have to wait for his shot with the big league club.
Astros Signing Fernando Rodney
The Houston Astros are turning to veteran right-hander Fernando Rodney for bullpen depth.
Adam Spolane of SportsRadio 610 in Houston reported the Astros have bought out Rodney's contract from the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Constellation Energy League.
Houston is dealing with an assortment of injuries in the bullpen, with the latest casualty being right-hander Joe Biagini, per Brian McTaggart of MLB.com:
"Biagini joins Austin Pruitt (elbow) and Brad Peacock (shoulder) on the IL while Chris Devenski and Ryan Pressly are dealing with elbow soreness, though general manager James Click is hopeful they won’t need an IL stint. The Astros placed starting pitcher Justin Verlander (forearm) on the IL on Monday and starter Jose Urquidy has been on the IL since July 12. Veteran reliever Joe Smith is on the restricted list and likely won’t play this year."
As a result, the Astros have had to rely on a number of inexperienced arms in the bullpen. McTaggart noted Tuesday Houston has nine rookies in its bullpen.
But the Astros have been active in combating this problem. Houston acquired right-hander Hector Velasquez from the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday, and will look for Rodney to provide quality innings.
Rodney got off to a rocky start with the Oakland Athletics at the start of the 2019 season, but he posted a respectable 4.05 ERA and 3.72 fielding independent pitching (FIP) mark in 33.1 innings with the Washington Nationals at the end of the year.
The 43-year-old still has decent strikeout stuff and a changeup which recorded a 43.8 percent whiff rate last season, per Baseball Savant. But Rodney has also had command issues throughout his career, averaging 4.5 free passes per nine innings.
Houston will hope Rodney can be effective in later innings as it hopes to overcome a number of injuries to key arms in the bullpen.
All stats obtained via Baseball Reference, unless otherwise noted.