Updated: Mar 8, 2019
Presumption is that young Tyler O'Neill will be backup for the St. Louis Cardinals outfield in the upcoming season. Time-sharing in rightfield and left field when needed. Some, but very little, in centerfield. He possesses the speed and solid arm to cover all three positions.
So far during the Cardinals Spring games, he's definitely making his presence known. Especially, but not limited to, at the plate.
Some are all in on O'Neill - the newest 'gravy train' fan favorite. Especially since consideration is leaning toward him playing rightfield, replacing RF Dexter Fowler. But is all the hype worthy?
In Spring play, currently most players are facing young arms who are given their time on the hill in the majors. However, O'Neill is taking advantage to improve upon his offense. Last season, the big complaint was he struck out too much. To me, for a rookie that is norm in most cases. Hitting against experienced major league pitchers is a very different program. They are wanting to impress, adrenaline running high. More times than not, they push air vs. leather. Still developing, learning a whole new 'eyesight' for the ball and timing.
Last season, O'Neill with 130 AB held a .254/.303/.500/.803 slashline with 9 HR/23 RBI in his rookie season. Along a with a 7-57/BB-SO ratio. Projected for 2019, which I find interesting, 244 AB almost double of that in 2018. However, same hitting average - a .254 BA with a remaining slashline of .317/.455/.722 with only 12 HR/36 RBI and a 20-77/BB-SO ratio. Still predicting heavy on the strikeouts.
This Spring with a small sample, he has created quite the fan hype. O'Neill has been impressive and developed an "eye" for the pitch. He is holding at (with 21 AB, 8 games played, 26 PA) - 5-6 AB/4 HR/6 RBI/1-2B for a .238/.385/.857/1.242 slashline. That includes a 5-7/BB-SO ratio. Minimal strikeouts, has drawn the walks; but, obviously a few fly balls - line drives caught. However, he's getting his bat on the ball.
In yesterday's game against the New York Yankees was his first in-the-park hit this Spring, for a RBI double. Placing the hit, finding the open field. He has shortened his swing and, hands down, a power bat it is.
Now the question is, as Spring games progress how much more playing time will O'Neill actually have? In approximately ten-to-fourteen days, we will begin to see what will be presumed as our Cardinals regular line-up for our upcoming season.
My personal thought - Is it possible, between the 'corners of the outfield', that O'Neill would be able to log equivalent game appearances to that of Fowler and/or Ozuna in 2019? With no injury to either player involved. Interesting concept. On the flipside, he will also be sharing some bench time with Jose Martinez.
THE NEW O'NEILL BAND WAGON TO REPLACE FOWLER
Among some Cardinals fans there has been a lot of lip-service where RF Dexter Fowler is concerned. Some don't hold the faith that he will have a bounce back season. They are hanging onto his performance - uncharacteristically ill performance - of 2018. I find that among some of those in the stands and, especially couch managers of home, they are quick to judge. A player not performing, dole out a ticket to ten-buck-two on a fast track. "Gratification Yesterday Syndrome'.
"IF" the organization(s) held to that mind-set, save a handful of players, we would see 20 new players on the roster each season. Baseball on the field is not 'fantasy' baseball. There are good, bad and indifferent days for each player. Why? Because they are human with human factors in their lives to deal with as they do their jobs. Being paid the "Big Bucks" does not guarantee, 100%, performance success each and every game of the 162 played.
Save the "Big Bucks", does that remotely sound like the 'common' person - a fan?
Fowler, and LF Marcell Ozuna - both looking for an improved season in 2019. Fowler because he knows he can and he is in a far better place than last season. Ozuna, coming up to his 2020 FA year, is on a mission.
Even though, will the young Tyler O'Neill, 23 years old, earn his place in the outfield as every day player? Odds are - probably not. BUT, he's certainly making his statement this Spring.
Thanks you for reading.