Dylan Carlson OF – St. Louis Cardinals (AA)
21 Years Old – Throw: L – Bat: S – 6’3″ 205 lbs – ETA 2020
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Dylan Carlson broke out in a huge way in 2019, shooting up all the prospect lists. A 2016 draftee out of Elk Grove High School in California, Carlson held his own in the low minors for his first two seasons. Upon his promotion to Double-A, Carlson finally tapped into his raw power and made himself a true potential five-tool superstar.
Carlson’s breakout featured a .292/.372/.542 line with 26 home-run and 20 stolen bases between double-A and triple-A. Carlson is a switch hitter and profiles as slightly stronger from the left side where he put up a .931 OPS in 2019. However, he still put up a well above average .861 OPS from the right side.
The Cardinals have been very aggressive with Carlson, so the breakout is not out-of-nowhere. He made the necessary adjustments and the development finally caught up with the tools.
Carlson may be able to stay in center field long-term, but could easily profile at either corner if he has to move down the defensive spectrum. He has above average speed, but will probably max out at mid-teens steals for just a few years. The power still has upside beyond what we saw last year and he should be able to put up 30 home-runs annually in his prime.
The son of former Elk Grove High School head baseball coach Jeff Carlson, Dylan comes from one of the best high school programs in the country. Elk Grove has also produced current major leaguer J.D. Davis and fellow prospect Nick Madrigal. Carlson has a strong work ethic and high baseball IQ, two qualities you’d expect from the son of a coach.
Carlson may make his major league debut this year as the outfielders ahead of him on the Redbirds roster are nearly all on their final chance.
Carlson has always had an above average hit tool. He sprays the ball to all fields with ease and with power. His walk percentage has remained above 10% at every stop except for his time in Rookie ball and a short call-up to Triple-A last season. He also has hovered in the 17-20% range in K%, a respectable number with room for improvement. His batting average suffered through his first few seasons in the minors, but mainly due to aggressive assignments and the lack of over the fence power. He has a quick swing from both sides of the plate, which should support a .280+ average going forward and he should add enough walks to get on base at a .350 clip.
Carlson’s in-game power is his single most improved area over the last year plus. He has easy power to all fields and should be able to hit 20+ home-runs in a full season right now. His overall fly ball profile has not changed much, although it did jump significantly in Triple-A in a very small sample size. His HR/FB% jumped significantly in 2019, nearly doubling his previous efforts. Carlson’s estimated flyball distance jumped just over 10 feet from 2018 to 2019. Carlson’s ISO jumped nearly 100 points from High-A in 2018 (.138) to Double-A in 2019 (.237) as well. The power was always in there, but getting older and stronger helped the ball fly a bit farther. He should be able to get to the 30 range eventually. There is still more in the tank, but Carlson will now have to make his adjustments at the highest level so it could be a slow burn.
Carlson has always been a steady fielder, but his ability to stay in center hinges upon keeping his above average speed and maxing out his abilities. He has the potential to steal double-digit bases, but probably more in the 10-15 range than the 20 he posted in the minors last year. Carlson’s arm is above average, but it may need to reach its full potential if he ends up in right field long-term.
Carlson has the makeup and baseball IQ to max out his abilities. His profile is among the safest in the minors because of the all-around ability. He is a five-tool player, but his hit tool and his IQ are the driving forces. If he slides in any of the other tools he still gives enough to be an occasional all-star, but if he maxes out all of his tools he may be one of the best players in baseball.
Overall FV: 55+