While the offense has been slumping as of late, a breakout star has emerged for the Cardinals. Tyler O’Neill leads the Cardinals in multiple offensive categories and has stepped up to become the offensive force he was hyped up to be when they acquired him in 2017.
How was he acquired?
The Cardinals acquired him from the Mariners in exchange for Marco Gonzales and at the time O’Neill was a top 100 prospect in all of baseball and everyone knew two things: he had a lot of power and he had a lot of strikeouts.
O’Neill tortured the minors having a slashline of .271/.343/.529 with 140 home runs and a .872 OPS. He ended the 2017 season with 26 home runs across Tacoma and Memphis. He would go onto debut in 2018 and split time among the Cardinals outfielders, this would turn into a norm for O’ Neill as he never had an opportunity to start full time until 2020 and that’s when it started to get ugly for him.
The Dreaded 2020 Season:
2020 couldn’t have gone worse for Tyler O’Neill as he hit .173/.261/.360 with seven home runs and a .621 OPS. Continuing on he had a 70 wRC+ (average is 100 wRC+) and a 27% strikeout rate to a 9% walk rate in 157 plate appearances. This in turn made many fans question his ability on the field and wanted to see him shipped out of St. Louis.
So you might be thinking, with those types of numbers there’s no way he’s still in St. Louis. Well, he was pegged as the Cardinals 2021 starting left fielder and struggled early on in the 2021 season. However, after multiple IL stints O’Neill has caught fire and after having an 11-game hitting streak snapped he still has a 16-game on base streak and leads the Cardinals in batting average (.291), home runs (15), slugging percentage (.649), and on-base plus slugging (.974).
While he has an incredible 164 wRC+ the strikeouts are still somewhat of a problem as he has a 33% strikeout rate and a measly 3% walk rate. However, there are other stats to prove that there’s nothing to worry about with these strikeout and walk rates. His big kryptonite in 2020 was breaking balls in general. He hit .193 and slugged .351 against breaking balls in 2020. However, 2021 has been a different story, he’s currently hitting .296 and slugging .759 off breaking balls. Then again, a majority of his breaking pitches have been in the zone. So, it’ll be interesting to see when the league adjusts to him again. Another thing that intrigues me about O’Neill is his drastic change in approach. He used to have a heavy pull approach but now he has more of an ability to hit to all fields. As his spray chart shows from 2020 and 2021:
Spray Charts provided by Baseball Savant
So Who the F*** is This Guy?
I could continue going on how much O’Neill has changed his swing and stance to allow for better plate vision or how he’s slowly turning into the Cardinals best hitter but it is still early in the year. On the other end, Tyler O’Neill has been thriving with the increased playing time and has been excellent protection for Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado. If O’Neill continues on this pace he’ll easily punch a ticket to Colorado for the 2021 mid-summer classic.
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