Cardinals Call on Lars Nootbaar for Outfield Help

photo: Lars Nootbaar (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

St. Louis Cardinals press release

The St. Louis Cardinals announced today (Tuesday, June 22) that they have selected rookie outfielder Lars Nootbaar (NOOT-bahr) from Memphis (AAA).  Outfielder Lane Thomas was optioned to Memphis (AAA) and left-handed pitcher Bernardo Flores, Jr., has been designated for assignment.

Nootbaar, 23, was the Cardinals eighth round selection (243rd overall) out of the University of Southern California in 2018.  He was recently activated from the minor league 7-day injured list with a right hand injury that kept him out from May 28-June 13.

Lars Nootbaar

The left-handed slugger was batting .329 with five home runs and 17 RBI over 29 games in Memphis.  With 79 at-bats, Nootbaar does not qualify for the Triple-A East leaders, but would rank 4th in batting and on-base percentage (.430).  Sporting a rifle arm in the outfield, in 2019 Nootbaar ranked T-2nd among Cardinals minor league outfielders and T-7th in all of Minor League Baseball with 16 assists.   This season, Nootbaar has appeared at all three outfield positions without committing an error in 44 total chances.

Thomas was batting .104 with two stolen bases and an RBI in 32 games in St. Louis.  Flores is 2-2 with a 5.74 ERA in 31.1 innings at Memphis.

Nootbaar has been assigned uniform No. 68 and will be active for tonight’s game in Detroit.

Brian Walton’s take

St. Louis’ search for offense continues in what may have seemed at first blush an unlikely place.

The Cardinal Nation’s 29th-ranked prospect, Nootbaar has just 55 games of career experience above A-ball – 33 at Double-A Springfield back in 2019 and 22 with Triple-A Memphis to date in 2021.

While Nootbaar was labeled a “slugger” by the Cardinals in their above release, that is a very recent addition to his resume and may still be written in pencil. Prior to 2021, his career slugging and on-base percentage were an equal .334. In 2019, his most recent season, his Double-A SLG was only .312.

However, with the Triple-A Redbirds, Nootbaar has begun to demonstrate significantly more pop in his bat – to the tune of a .557 SLG over his 93 plate appearances. From his all-around solid resume, this particular aspect could be most appealing to the offensively struggling Cardinals.

The left-handed hitter has always shown good plate discipline with a strikeout rate at 20% or less and a walk rate of 14% or better at Double-A and Triple-A. Also note his BABIP this season is a career-high .368, however.

Due to his strong arm, Nootbaar has been primarily deployed in right field this season, but he also has considerable experience in left. He should be considered more of an emergency option in center,

With St. Louis, if Nootbaar gets a chance in right field, it would enable the Cardinals to return Tommy Edman to second base. If he takes hold, it could be a decent run of playing time since Harrison Bader’s activation (which will return Dylan Carlson to right) is still some time in the future.

Thomas’ slide continues, from a strong St. Louis debut in 2019 that ended with a broken hand, to a relatively severe case of COVID in 2020 to repeated disappointment with St. Louis the last two partial seasons.

Lane Thomas

Flores is familiar with being designated for assignment. That is how the 25-year-old joined St. Louis, claimed via outright waivers on April 1 from the Chicago White Sox.

Bernardo Flores Jr.

For the Pale Hose, Flores made two relief appearances in 2020 and another with St. Louis on May 1 vs. the Mets. In that outing, all three batters he faced reached base, with one scoring.

With Memphis this season, Flores has made eight appearances including five starts. His strikeout to walk count is an unhealthy 26 to 18 and Triple-A batters are hitting a collective .315 against him. That includes six home run balls served up.

If Flores clears waivers, he would presumably remain in Memphis’ rotation, but if claimed, he will leave the Cardinals organization and join a different club’s 40-man roster.


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