School: New Trier Township High School, Winnetka, Illinois
Selected 2014 stats
Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)
Message board community (14): At number 14, Charlie Tilson went lower in the community vote than one might have expected. The outfielder did not even receive any votes until Beef16 cast his tally for Tilson at #10.
I mentioned that Tilson bombed once he arrived in Springfield after the Ramsey trade. That performance may have deferred some votes. Another big issue for Tilson is that he missed the final few weeks of the season with a fractured foot. Given his earlier shoulder injury that caused him to miss the entire 2012 season, there was a lot of doubt cast on Tilson’s ability to remain healthy. - Jeremy Byrd
Derek Shore: Tilson was the recipient of the 13th ranking in last years’ top 40 list. This winter, the outfielder was able to leap into the top 10 following a season in which he played the most games of his career and took a major step by making the tough transition to the Double-A level.
The speedy Chicago-area native started the season at Palm Beach and hit .308 in 88 games. He led the league with eight triples before earning a promotion to Springfield on July 22nd. The left-handed hitter and thrower profiles best as a lead-off man, having flourished in that role in his two full seasons.
At Springfield, Tilson got into 31 games and hit .237/.269/.324 with two homers and 17 RBI. Tilson was supposed to headline the Cardinals Arizona Fall Leaguers but he suffered a foot fracture two weeks prior to the end of the regular season and the necessary rehab kept him out of fall baseball action. An organization official said Tilson is expected at 100 percent by spring training, so there should be no long-term effects.
Because of a lack of home run power that is more gap than anything, Tilson will never be a middle-of-the-order type of impact bat. He knows his skill-set and sticks to his strengths, making contact and using his speed as a lead-off hitter. Tilson is a plus runner but doesn’t have the assertiveness to be a base-stealer. When he is running down the line or is stretching out a line drive base hit, he gets to full speed quickly and will rack up his fair share of doubles and triples.
The Cardinals want Tilson to learn to play a shallow center field and kick up his aggressiveness on the base paths. He is expected to stick in centerfield, where he is at present a plus defender and with enough arm.
Tilson is not close to having mastered the Double-A level and will likely rejoin the Springbirds for the start of 2015.
Brian Walton (10): I see 2015 as the season in which either Tilson steps forward as a legitimate MLB contender or falls back into the pack. My confidence level remains fairly high, as indicated by my top-10 ranking.
The organization continues to give Tilson every opportunity. He was among the hand-picked invitees to the Spring Training Early Program (STEP Camp) in 2014. Joining Palm Beach out of the gate, Tilson was the youngest player on his team’s roster at age 21 after having been second-youngest on the 2013 Peoria squad.
Palm Beach’s leadoff man earned a berth on the South team for the Florida State League All-Star Game. At the time of his promotion, Tilson was in contention for the batting title, ranked sixth with a .308 batting average, and eventually finished third. He was second in the FSL with 114 hits and topped Palm Beach with 54 runs scored when he packed his bags for Springfield.
In fact, his impact in the A-Advanced league was so great that despite the fact he left the FSL on July 21st, Tilson was still named to the 12-team circuit’s post-season All-Star Team. This is a more elite honor than being a mid-season all-star, as only four outfielders were selected.
Tilson has the kind of game that enabled him to utilize the larger parks in the FSL to his advantage. When I asked him if .300 was a goal, the left-handed hitter didn’t brush it off, but it also did not appear to be his top priority.
“It is certainly a target, but the way I try to go about it is to have more and more quality at-bats and try to focus on that more than the result,” Tilson explained. “You start to learn as you play more and more baseball, especially as the seasons get longer, that you are going to have highs and lows. You’ve got to find some consistency in your routine. Any positive outcome you can take from an at-bat, even if it is a line out or something, is definitely a good thing.”
As is almost always the case, moving up in level is due to a combination of a player demonstrating his readiness, a roster opening and available playing time. Tilson’s chance in Double-A really presented itself when another top 10 prospect, James Ramsey, was dealt to Cleveland at the end of July.
Springfield manager Mike Shildt welcomed his new centerfielder and leadoff man with open arms.
“It was a great opportunity for Charlie to get a chance to play,” Shildt recalled. “He’s got some real abilities. He is a plus runner. Got some pop in his bat. His game is his legs, but he is not a slap guy – he’s got some thump in his bat.”
Shildt’s time managing Tilson in 2014 was shortened due to the outfielder’s August injury, but he liked what he saw.
“He did a nice job,” the skipper concluded. “I was sorry to see him hurt obviously, and miss the fall league.”
Not only was Tilson precluded from competing in an ideal situation in the Arizona Fall League, he had been assured of regular at-bats as the Cardinals priority player. While it will not slow down his career, it was a missed opportunity to potentially accelerate it a bit.
Though my projected 2015 Memphis opening outfield of Tommy Pham, Stephen Piscotty, Rafael Ortega and Mike O’Neill seems set, the Springfield fly-chasers as a group will be less strong. With a consistent performance back at Double-A, I could see Tilson being in the right place at the right time to move up when an injury-related opening occurs at Triple-A.
Tilson experienced a second injury, a sports hernia that required December surgery, reported Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com. The outfielder is still expected to be ready to go in the spring.
Our 2015 top 40 series continues: To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the top 40 countdown and nine in-depth, follow-up articles. Most of the latter are exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation.
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