photo: Dylan Carlson (Springfield Cardinals FANatic Photos)
The Cardinal Nation’s no. 1 St. Louis Cardinals prospect, Dylan Carlson, is apparently spending the entire 2019 season at one level, Double-A, with the Springfield Cardinals of the Texas League, after previously having been moved ahead aggressively in his still-young professional career.
In this assignment, Carlson was the fourth-youngest player in the circuit on Opening Day. And even while staying put, the 20-year old is more than three years younger than his league’s average player.
None of that matters to his performance, as the 2019 Futures Game participant is putting together a historic season, headlined by consistency and diverse offensive contributions.
Carlson is nearing a 20-20 home run-stolen base milestone that has not been achieved by a player his age or younger in the Texas League in the last 32 years.
Carlson’s current counts
Carlson leads all of Double-A (including the Southern and Eastern Leagues, covering all 30 MLB organizations) in runs (81), slugging percentage (.518), and total bases (216), while ranking second in home runs and extra-base hits.
In the Texas League, the outfielder is first in the same categories, of course, while ranking among league leaders in 11 other stats. One of those is stolen bases, with his count of 18 (against seven caught stealing) ranking him in a tie for eighth.
The other measure in which Carlson is tops in the TL is a high-visibility one – home runs. His total of 21 round-trippers is four more than the next-closest pair of sluggers.
In other words, Carlson is just two stolen bases from a 20-20 season at the Double-A level – while just 20 years of age.
Historic context – with Cardinals connections
The Cardinal Nation’s Bob Reed took on the research task to determine how rare Carlson’s feat would be.
As it turns out, the last Texas Leaguer age 20 or younger to post a 20-20 season was a then-future Cardinal – Gregg Jefferies, 32 years ago. Jefferies, just 19 in 1987 as a former first-round pick of the New York Mets, popped 20 homers and pilfered 26 bases, which ranked him 11th and seventh in the league, respectively. His best stat may have been his 48 doubles, however.
Jefferies went on to play 14 seasons in the Major Leagues as an infielder/outfielder, but his only All-Star seasons were during his two years as a Cardinal – 1993 and 1994. That 1993 season was his career best across the board, with 16 home runs, 83 RBI and 46 stolen bases. While the switch-hitter (as is Carlson) had six other seasons with double-digit long balls, Jefferies never swiped more than 26 bags in any year, before or after.
In the Southern League, 19-year-old Delmon Young was the most recent to achieve the feat, with a 20-25 season in 2005 – in just 84 games! The right-handed hitting outfielder was Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year, their no. 1 prospect in the game, and he made his MLB debut the next season.
Young, younger brother of former Cardinal Dmitri, came up with the Tampa Bay Rays, but never realized his immense potential and was out of the big leagues before reaching his 30th birthday. His top season was in 2010, when he hit 21 home runs and plated 112 for the Minnesota Twins. Young’s peak stolen base count was just 14 with the 1998 Twinkies.
In the Eastern League, one has to go back to 1993, when Montreal Expos outfield prospect Cliff Floyd recorded an amazing 26-31 season in just 101 games. Floyd was 20 years of age, with a common comp for him at the time being Frank Thomas, but with speed. Imagine that!
Instead, injuries partially derailed Floyd’s career, which still lasted 17 years, during which he launched a total of 233 home runs and stole 148 bases. The left-handed hitter’s only All-Star selection was with the Florida Marlins of 2001, when he had career bests of 31 home runs and 103 runs batted in. His top stolen base season was 27, also with the Marlins, in 1998.
What is Next?
With his entire MLB career still ahead, will Carlson become the next Jefferies, Young, Floyd, or someone else entirely?
In the short term, the question of whether Carlson can become the organization’s first Texas League Player of the Year since Oscar Taveras is on the minds of many, including his manager.
“He’s definitely got to be a name that has to be in the discussion for Player of the Year,” Joe Kruzel said. “He has put himself – the way he has played and the numbers he has put up – he has put himself into that category.”
With this news, the 20-20 quest is over at 20-18, but the bigger picture is more important, as Carlson moves a step closer to St. Louis.
#STLCards top prospect Dylan Carlson has been promoted to Triple-A Memphis from Springfield today. The 20-year old slashed .281/.364/.518 through 108 games at Springfield and led the Texas League with 51 extra-base hits.
— Derek Shore (@D_Shore23) August 15, 2019
Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation
Read the rest of Kruzel’s extensive remarks about his center fielder Carlson in the following article by TCN Springfield reporter Derek Shore:
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