Pipeline names Cardinals Prospects of the Year

September 19th, 2019

ST. LOUIS -- A showcase of production and power at Double-A Springfield led to Dylan Carlson’s promotion to Triple-A Memphis for the final month of the season, where the 20-year-old switch-hitting outfielder found even more success.

No one made more of a lasting impression this year than Carlson, which is why MLB Pipeline named the Cardinals’ No. 2 prospect (No. 49 overall) St. Louis’ Minor League Hitter of the Year. Right-handed reliever Junior Fernandez took home the top pitching honors.

Each team's Hitting and Pitching Prospects of the Year were chosen by the MLB Pipeline staff. To receive consideration, players must have spent at least half the year in the Minors and appeared on the team's Top 30 Prospects list.

Carlson slashed .292/.372/.542 with 26 home runs and 68 RBIs across two teams this year. He was named the Texas League Player of the Year for his efforts with Springfield, including being named to the Texas League All-Star Game and the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game. When he was promoted to Memphis on Aug. 15, Carlson hit .361/.418/.681 with five home runs in 18 games.

Carlson’s production has the Cardinals excited about what he can do in 2020 and beyond. He will eventually have to break into what is now a crowded Major League outfield, but if he keeps up his performance next season, he’ll force the Cards to notice him.

“In Dylan’s case, he’s a very unique player,” Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said. “One that we really haven’t [had] come around in years. His versatility at the plate being a switch-hitter is special; I think having the combination of power and the ability to make hard contact is special. The fact is, I think he could play all three [outfield] positions. I think ultimately, he’ll end up at one of the corners, but he has the ability to do that, which is helpful.”

Carlson was originally scheduled to play in the Arizona Fall League, but after talking with Mozeliak, he decided to not play and focus solely on offseason training in preparation for the next year.

“He feels like having a true offseason to physically prepare for next year is more important than getting at-bats,” Mozeliak said. “Given how rigorous the Spring Training was and basically playing every day for the last five months, and having the success he did, I just don’t feel like it was a place he had much left to prove.”

Fernandez, on the other hand, reached the Majors after rising quickly through the farm system this year. The 22-year-old found success this season after struggling since signing with the Cardinals out of the Dominican Republic in 2014.

Fernandez began the season at Class A Advanced Palm Beach, where he had a 1.54 ERA in nine games (11 2/3 innings). Then he moved on to Springfield, where he had a 1.55 ERA in 18 games (29 innings). Fernandez's 1.48 ERA at Memphis (18 games, 24 1/3 innings) rounded out his Minor League year before a September callup put him in the Cardinals' bullpen.

“I think the biggest thing is he realized how to put hitters away,” Mozeliak said. “He’s always had that dynamic arm, but combining that with how he uses his offspeed pitches has really made him go from average to well-above. Understanding the strike zone, understanding how to attack it, he’s becoming much more aggressive.”

Fernandez made his MLB debut on Aug. 11 against Pittsburgh, the first of nine appearances across two stints with the Cardinals. He has a 3.12 ERA in 8 2/3 innings with 14 strikeouts.

“He definitely has swing-and-miss stuff,” Mozeliak said. “As he sees himself having success at the Major League level, it’s only going to help him.”