If I can keep it up all month, 31 days of positive posts! There's going to be enough negativity going around with the Cardinals not in the post-season.
This is actually going to be a long one. I wrote up a post on an appreciation of Tyler O'Neill back in August that never got posted. Here is part of it now.
Tyler O’Neill is a very large human being with very large muscles. His bat would be described as anything but small or quiet, as well.
Over the last two seasons, Tyler O’Neill (T.O.N.) has been a man-child in the minors. He started out with the Tacoma Raniers in the Seattle Mariners organization. They are the AAA team out in Washington state. He played his first 93 games of 2017 with that squad, belting 21 doubles, 2 triples, and 19 homers in the process. This was in his first crack at AAA whatsoever, at nearly four and a half years under league average at 22 years old. He came over to the Memphis Redbirds in a deal that sent Marco Gonzales to the Mariners big league club. After arriving in Memphis, T.O.N. played in 37 regular season games and had 5 doubles, 1 triple, and 12 homers in that short time period, giving him a total of 60 xbh in 130 games in his first go around at the AAA level. His slash line was .246/.321/.499/.820, leaving room for improvement, but pretty darn good all things considered.
T.O.N. was sent back to AAA this year at age 23, still three and a half years under the league average player. He was playing every day and was a rock star. He did have a couple of call ups to the majors this year to work around, but still ended up in 64 games at Memphis in 2018. In those games, he hit .311/.385/.693/1.078 - a total that nobody expected. He had 9 doubles, 2 triples, and 26 homers in that time. You may look at the doubles with a questioning eye, but realize that 26 homers carried out, so that took away quite a few of the potential doubles. He’ll take that every day and twice on Sundays.
O'Neill got moved up and down a bit this year. He actually got to start quite a bit from May 18 to May 30. He started seven of the ten games that he played in during that twelve game stretch in which he was in the majors. He hit .290/.313/.613/.925. He then got injured and sent back to the minors. He was playing fairly consistently and hit very well. In fact, he started 5 games in a row and hit .421/.450/.947/1.397 in those 5 games - with homers in 3 straight. He didn’t hit as well once he was shown the bench a few times. The dude needs consistency.
He spent all of June in the minors after that stretch of time and was brought up July 2-4, playing in all 3 games, but starting just 1. He was then sent down for another 21 games getting called back up July 31st. He’s been up ever since (although he missed 9 games with another injury.) *NOTE: This was previously written near the end of August.* Since July 31st, O’Neill has hit .333/.375/.556/.931 prior to today’s game in which he homered again, while playing in all 15 games in which he hasn’t been injured and starting in 9 of them. The guy hits when he plays.
Prior to today’s game (again, remember this was written prior to September), Tyler O’Neill had seen 57.7% “hard” pitches - fastballs, he’d seen 36.4% breaking balls, and 5.8% offspeed pitches. He’d still struck out over 35% of the time. That is what people are seeing that lead them to believe that he could very well be Randal Grichuk. As a whole, sliders are eating him alive. It’s true. Of the 24 plate appearances ended with a slider to T.O.N., he whiffed on 12 of them. However, he also did this to one from Rockies starter Antonio Senzatela on Friday night. O’Neill has absolutely crushed the 4-seamer, sinker (2-seamer), and change up this year. He stays back very well on the offspeed (non-breaking) stuff, I believe. He hit a home run today (see .gif later) on a change up and prior to today he was hitting .333 with an .833 SLG against change ups. Yes, it was only 6 PA. Yes, he’d struck out in two of them. However, with two homers now equaling his two strikeouts, he’ll take it I’m sure. He also homered back on May 20th against Phillies superstar Aaron Nola on a change up. That ball was 101 mph off of O’Neill’s bat and went 407 feet in St. Louis - a notoriously tough place for right-handed power. The best part, it was a good pitch down below the zone that almost got O’Neill down to one knee to power out. T.O.N. still demolished it. Today’s was off of lefty Tyler Anderson in Colorado. It was hit 102 miles per hour and 395 feet. The location on it was admittedly a lot worse than the location on the prior home run off of Nola. Here are those two:
His other three homers at that point had all come on fastballs, whether four-seamers, two-seamers, or sinkers. However, if I’d have told you that O’Neill has 6 homers, I bet you would have guessed 5-6 of them were off of heaters, not just 3.His line after today’s 2 hits and a homer is up to .282/.315/.529/.845. In just 35 games and 19 starts, he’s up to 9 xbh, 3 of them doubles and 6 of them homers.
THEN, the next day he turned on a hung breaking ball. At that point, 3 of his 6 homers were on pitches other than fastballs. Here's that one:
None of the above goes into the most surprising part of his game for me. Tyler O’Neill can flat out play some defense as well. I expected more than the Matt Holliday, Chris Duncan, Jose Martinez variety of defense...but my expectations were more capped off at the Allen Craig or Oscar Taveras level of defense. He was a +3 defender by OAA (statcast's outfield D metric), +6 by DRS, and +4.8 by UZR. That was all in approximately 1/5 of a season of defense, putting him on pace (if you average the three defensive systems) of being a +23 outfield defender. Bader led the league this year along with Ender Inciarte at +21 (also both shy of 1,350 innings, though).
Another good swing at a breaking ball because @nchill already had it queued up for me.