Calloni’s Corner: Cardinals Outfield Logjam

Josh Calloni, Reporter

The Cardinals have a good problem: they have roughly nine major league caliber outfielders for four spots. The rest could be used as trade bait for pitching, but who would make the cut?

Looking at the most prominent outfielders, the Cardinals have Dexter Fowler, Harrison Bader and Marcell Ozuna that start most of the games in the outfield.

Fowler has had a resurgent season in 2019, bouncing back from batting .186 over the entirety of 2018 to batting .249 with 16 home runs, which is also doubled from his 2018 season. 

Bader is not enjoying all of the same success this season, though he’s showed it in the past. Bader is batting .207 with seven home runs, and he was optioned to AAA Memphis over the summer, though since he recall, he’s been one of the best hitters on the team. 

Ozuna is the last one in this category, and he’s not going anywhere, at least for this season. Ozuna has been batting around .250 all season, and he is knocked out 25 homers. The knock on Ozuna is that he is a pending free agent. 

Then the Cardinals have a handful of borderline outfielders that have spent the season between the majors and AAA, or have spent most of the season coming off the bench. 

Tyler O’Neill has batted .269 with five homers since his return from the minors in late June, and had been on a tear before getting injured halfway through July. 

Jose Martinez is another example. He has been up all season, though he has mostly utilized off the bench and has spent some time on the injured list. Martinez has knocked out 10 HR’s and hit .266 over the 2019 season, though he’s played poor defense, and is a little older than most on this list, at 30 years old. 

Finally, Lane Thomas. Thomas has been up and down all season, and he’s destroyed major league pitching when he has his opportunity. He’s hit .316 with four home runs. Though currently, he finds himself out for the season with a wrist fracture. 

The Cardinals also have three outfielders who have not made their MLB debut yet, only having a few games under their belt, Adolis Garcia, Randy Arozarena, Dylan Carlson and Justin Williams. 

Garcia came up towards the end of last season and was a pinch runner down the stretch. However, Garcia posses power. The 26 year old hit 32 home runs in Memphis this season. Arozarena has played in a handful of major league games, though not enough to show his potential. After hitting .381 in Memphis, he was brought up, and quickly optioned back down. As for Williams, he spent most of 2019 injured, but hit north of .350 once he returned to the lineup in Memphis, and hit about 10 home runs. Finally, Carlson. He i’s the future of the Cardinals outfield, rated at number 20 as far as prospects go around the entire MLB. The 20 year old switch hitter has laid waste to pitching in the minors, hitting above .300 with over 25 home runs over AA and AAA this season.

So, what would the Cardinals do with all of this depth? Ozuna looks like a lock to depart via free agency this winter, though he’s shown interest in remaining a Cardinal, and Fowler’s contract would be hard to move. The team has given Bader many opportunities and with his recent hot streak, it appears as if he is going nowhere as well. Arozarena and Carlson are both very young, and could use more minor league seasoning, so that removes them from the equation too. That leaves four. Williams, Thomas, Martinez and Garcia. Martinez is under contract next season, and the team utilizes him as their main pinch hitter, and with the league leaning towards a DH, he could become even more valuable. As for the other three, they could easily be used as trade bait for a big time starting pitcher. The three of them, or a few combined could of been used to get a pitcher such as Zack Wheeler at the deadline, and could be used as such again this offseason.

It will be an interesting offseason for the Cardinals, to see how they build their 2020 outfield, and beyond.