Updated: Dec 16, 2018
Prospect #9: OF, Dylan Carlson
Previously Ranked 18th
Palm Beach Cardinals
Drafted in the first round of the 2016 draft
THE QUICK WRITE UP
This season could have gone a couple of different ways for this young man. Entering the season, we knew that he didn't embarrass himself as an 18-year-old in the Midwest League, but we also knew that he really didn't do anything to stand out aside from throwing a bunch of base runners out on the base paths from the outfield. We knew that you never know what this type of advanced promotion would do to a player's development. We were very pleased that the Cardinals resisted the temptation to start him at Palm Beach. We knew that keeping him in Peoria to start 2018 was smart for his development. Luckily, Carlson excelled from the beginning of the season and earned a promotion to Palm Beach on merit and not trajectory. I've seen more than a few people site his .234 batting average at Peoria prior to the Palm Beach promotion as a reason for keeping him in Peoria. That was a poor sentiment as all of Carlson's other stats were right where they needed to be. So the question became how Carlson would do while hitting in the most pitcher friendly league in all of the minors while being extremely young for the league. As of July 11th, Carlson was hitting a solid 256/352/367/719 in 199 at-bats with an 18.8% K rate and a 12% BB rate . Nothing eye-popping but nothing really worrisome. Now, let's get into expectations for a second. If I told you that you had a player that was entering a pitcher's league that is three and a half years older than him on average what would you expect? I'd expect that hitter to struggle at the start. Then, if he was a potential offensive threat with enough understanding of how he was going to be attacked, he'd eventually rebound and start to define his offensive profile.
That's exactly what Carlson has done. In the 30 games between June 2nd and July 11th, Carlson has slashed 284/362/440/803 with four home runs, three doubles, and one triple in 109 at-bats. His strike out rate is a little high over this time, right around 20%, but his walk rate is right around 12%. The fact that this 19-year-old MAN (Shout out to C70) is performing so well and steadily at this level at this stage in his development is great. Don't let his barely-above-average wRC+ of 108 at Palm Beach fool you. This is a hitter that is trending up!
*UPDATED ON 8/23/2018*
Carlson has had a tough August but he'll be fine. Don't sweat it. For real. By this time next season we'll be seeing a side of him, a developed side, that we could only dream about while he's making a name for himself in the Texas League.
WHY TO GET EXCITED
Before we even get into stats, Carlson is smart. He's the son of a highly decorated high school baseball coach and he's every bit as baseball-smart as any prospect in baseball.
Carlson possesses all of the intangibles that you'd want a prospect to possess. He's a leader. He's a gym rat. He's a student of the game. He's mature beyond his years. Personal/family circumstances have made Carlson this way.
He's big and smooth all at once. He stands 6'3" and right around 200 pounds, but he gets around like he's much smaller.
Carlson has held his own for two straight seasons at levels that are way to advanced for your average teen aged prospect.
Even better, Carlson has really adapted well to the pitching friendly Florida State League. From the beginning of June until I started writing this on July 24th, Carlson is hitting 277/352/445/797 with six doubles, one triple, and six home runs in 180 plate appearances AT THE FREAKING AGE OF NINETEEN. His K rate has jumped up to about 20% over that time period, but his walk rate has stayed at 10% over that period, as well.
Even when he was struggling he never changed his approach. He understands the importance of having a good at-bat and taking a walk. He has an incredible understanding of the strike zone.
Carlson is a very good corner outfielder.
His arm from the outfield is plus. He threw out a bunch of base runners while at Peoria during the 2017 season and the Florida State League is definitely aware of that.
He still has a lot of work to do, but he is on an incredible track at an incredible pace and he just might turn into one of the best first round hitting prospects that the Cardinals have drafted in years.
WHY TO BE CAUTIOUS
Stop me if you've heard me say this before on this little journey through the system: "He's still only 19-years-old and anything could happen."
The biggest concern with Carlson is if the power that his frame is capable of producing will ever manifest.
There's always the chance that a player that is as aggressively promoted as Carlson ends up hitting a wall before he reaches his peak because he's never had a real chance to develop his skills. Usually those players are having to be defensive in the box and, aside from the elite prospects, the next level ends up being a wall.
At first, Carlson seemed to be a better hitter left-handed than right-handed. Now, he seems like a better hitter right-handed than left-handed. I'm not overly-worried about his ability to hit from either side, but if I don't put it down then this section is only like a few bullet points deep and at that point it'll just seem like I'm phoning this thing in.
Carlson has a great feel for the strike zone. He's always looking for his pitch. He takes a tough at-bat and he's always been able to hold his own. His power is the question, but his work ethic and abilities are not. I think his ceiling is a lot higher than I was ever willing to give him credit for. While I adjust my expectations of what he is capable of and recalibrate, let's focus on the fact that his most likely outcome at this point is something similar to Yonder Alonso.
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