Cardinals Swap Outfielders – Hurst for Thomas

photo: Scott Hurst (St. Louis Cardinals)

St. Louis Cardinals press release

The St. Louis Cardinals announced today that they have selected the contract of rookie outfielder Scott Hurst from their Alternate Training Site and optioned outfielder Lane Thomas to the ATS.   To make room for Hurst on the team’s 40-player Major League roster, the team announced that pitcher Dakota Hudson (right elbow) was transferred from the 10-day Injured List to the 60-day Injured List.

Hurst, 25, will be making his Major League debut with his first game appearance and will wear uniform no. 36.

The left-handed hitting Hurst was the Cardinals 3rd round (94th player overall) draft selection in 2017 out of Cal State-Fullerton University, where he earned First Team All-Big West honors, leading the Titans with 12 home runs and a trip to the College World Series.

The 5-10, 170-pound Hurst appeared in 12 games during Spring Training this year, and owns a .263 (218-for-830) career batting mark with 12 home runs, 90 RBI and 18 steals in 231 games played in the minors.  His highest level of play was at Springfield in the Texas League (AA) in 2019.

Hurst ranked among MiLB leaders in 2019 with his 13 outfield assists between Palm Beach and Springfield.

Brian Walton’s take

This is a reflection of two very opposite trend lines – one up (Hurst) and the other down (Thomas).

Scott Hurst (St. Louis Cardinals)

Hurst was a standout in his first big-league camp this spring, batting from the left side and playing a solid outfield, including center. His slash line, compiled over just 14 Grapefruit League plate appearances, was a small sample variable .222/.500/.556/1.056. One of his two hits was a home run and he drew five free passes. Four strikeouts stood out for the wrong reason.

Hurst was St. Louis’ first pick in the 2017 draft, taken in the third round as a junior from Cal State Fullerton. This was the Houston hacking-Dexter Fowler compensation draft, in which the Cardinals forfeited their initial three selections. 2017 was an uncharacteristically poor draft class overall for St. Louis, with 27th rounder Kodi Whitley their only pick to reach MLB prior to Hurst.

At his first stop, State College, Hurst tied for third in the New York-Penn League with six three-base hits and his seven outfield assists and a league-tying lead in double plays converted were testament to his standout defense. He was named an All-Star in the Short-Season Rookie-level circuit.

In 2018, primarily at Class-A Peoria, Hurst batted .312, tied for ninth in the Cardinals system. That season, he logged a 22-game home hitting streak at Dozer Park.

However, the next year, Hurst’s performance tailed off dramatically, as he struggled to a combined .217 batting average, .586 OPS and a career-worst 29.4% strikeout rate between Palm Beach and Double-A Springfield.

In 2020, Hurst was passed over for all St. Louis and alternate camp invitations – other than the January minor league instructional camp. The 25-year-old has yet to play an official game at the Triple-A level.

With St. Louis, Hurst may see some action as a left-handed hitting alternative behind temporary center field starter Dylan Carlson or perhaps in right field, where second baseman Tommy Edman has been playing out of necessity. The regular in center, Harrison Bader, has yet to be cleared to hit or throw and remains on the injured list while working out at the alternate camp.

In addition to Hurst, only three true outfielders on the active roster are Carlson, Austin Dean and Justin Williams. The three positions are not only thin, but are not producing for the inconsistent 6-6 Cardinals offense.

Hurst debuted at number 40 on The Cardinal Nation’s Top 50 Prospect List prior to the 2018 season. He moved up to 37th the next off-season before falling out of the rankings as a result of his rough 2019.

Lane Thomas (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

On the other hand, Thomas’ stock dipped even further in a very rough outing in the finale of the just-completed Nationals series. The 25-year-old began the spring red-hot with the bat but tailed off and did not make the team out of camp.

He was promoted from the alternate site this past Sunday when Tyler O’Neill was placed on the injured list and had two singles, a walk and three strikeouts in 10 plate appearances plus a costly Wednesday fielding error in his brief time with St. Louis.

Thomas had a strong debut with St. Louis in 2019 before suffering a broken hand, but was hit hard by COVID in 2020, looking listless when he did try to come back. Team officials said that only Carlos Martinez (two hospital stays) was more affected by the virus among Cardinals players.

However, that was then and this is now. Thomas is back in Sauget, with Hurst the next man up.

Note that Thomas may still physically remain with the Cardinals if he is again on the taxi squad, as he was for the season-opening road trip. At that time, St. Louis carried two relievers, a catcher,  an infielder and an outfielder as its allowable five on-hand reserves. We should learn the identities of the current taxi squadders on Friday.

With the 40-man roster already full, the paper work move of Hudson to the 60-day injured list creates the spot needed for Hurst without the Cardinals having to drop another player from the roster. Right-hander Hudson is expected to miss the entire 2021 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Other news

Former Cardinals first baseman Xavier Scruggs made an important announcement on Thursday.

The 33-year-old played eight seasons in the Cardinals system before concluding his playing career in Mexico in 2019.

On Wednesday, the organization finalized the signing of highly-touted Cuban Luis Mario Pino.

For more

To track the status of the Cardinals’ 40-man roster as well as all players in the system by position and level, check out the Roster Matrix, always free and updated here at The Cardinal Nation. Also included is every player transaction across the full organization all year long.

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