Dylan Carlson (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

One of St. Louis’ first-rounders in 2016, Dylan Carlson, has the profile of a future power-hitting outfielder.

The Cardinal Nation’s top 50 prospect countdown for 2017 continues at #22 with St. Louis’ second first-round pick, who began his career in the Gulf Coast League. Details for TCN members.


2016 rank Pos. DOB Signed Round
NA OF 10 23 98 2016 1st

Selected 2016 stats

GCL 0.251 0.333 183 30 46 13 3 22 16 52 4 0.341 0.313 0.404 0.718

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

Message board community (18): Dylan Carlson had a good bit of support during the community vote, pulling in enough votes to finish as the #18 prospect. Cflood was the first to pop for Carlson, tabbing him as his 12th best prospect.

BobReed said that he likes players who display highly unusual stats and Carlson tops his list with his ability to avoid hitting a single pop out this year. Bccran believes Carlson may have more potential than other highly rated prospects like Magneuris Sierra, as Carlson is four inches taller and 30 pounds heavier. Mudville believes Carlson should be ranked higher just due to being a first-round draft pick. Wileycard said that Carlson strikes out a little too much for his liking, but the future power bat is extremely promising. – Jeremy Byrd


Derek Shore (23): One of the youngest prospects from the 2016 draft, Carlson was a money-saving pick at No. 33 overall, signing for $1.35 million, which was over half a million dollars under his slot value.

Carlson, now 18 years old, hit .406 with nine home runs and 40 RBI for Elk Grove High School in California as they won their second consecutive Division-1 Sac-Joaquin Section Championship. The switch-hitter, whose father Jeff was the head baseball coach, was an Under-Armour All-American and is a scout's pride and joy for his makeup and raw tools. He also finished high school with a cumulative 3.9 GPA and scholarship offer to play at Cal State Fullerton.

"Dylan is a physical high school centerfielder that projects as a middle-of-the-line hitter," Cardinals Scouting Director Randy Flores said in a press release. "He has potential plus raw power and an exciting bat."

Carlson's initial transition to pro ball was rocky due to the barrel of his bat getting in and out of the zone early, hitting .181 (13-for-72) with zero homers and three RBI through his first 21 games for the Gulf Coast League Cardinals. After changing his swing plane to make it flatter to stay through the zone longer, St. Louis' second first-rounder finished hitting .297 (33-for-111) with better extra-base power (16 XBHs) and 19 RBI.

“Love Dylan Carlson. Love this kid,” his GCL skipper Steve Turco said. “I think he is going to be a heck of a big-league player. He’s got the focus and all the intangibles things you want from a player he possesses. He’s got talent to boot. He played center field for us and did a decent job playing center. He was a first baseman/outfielder in high school and was thrust into playing center field, I don’t know if down the road he will be a corner outfielder, but he is going to hit for power.

“He’s a switch-hitter and his swing path changed from the left-side that made him more productive, making better contact and driving the ball a little bit further. I think he’s going to hit for power and he’s a 17-year old man, who is mature beyond his years and the focus you would hope a big-leaguer would be.”

Despite his contact rate slipping with the increase in power, Carlson was said to have shown strength in his bat with the ability to turn on a fastball and use all fields. He also showed he could identify breaking balls, with changeups giving him the most fits.

A rival GCL manager chimed with his impression of Carlson.

"He's a switch-hitter who didn't hit well against us," the GCL manager told me. "I like his tools. Against us, he didn't do much, but he's got good tools. He can run a little bit. For me in the future, he can play all three positions in the outfield."

Defensively, the Elk Grove, CA native played mostly center field where his speed and arm strength both grade out as fringy. Without the necessary arm strength for right field, scouts say he profiles best in left.

Although he may grow out the position standing at 6-foot-3, 195 pounds with additional room to fill out, I asked the rival manager if he has the defensive chops to stick in center.

"Yes (he can stick); he moves well and covers a lot of ground," he replied. "I also think his routes and anticipation are very good that will allow him to play that position."

Carlson is considered to be a stronger hitter from the left-side than right-side but has a sound swing from both sides of the plate with advanced present hitting ability and projects as an above-average hitter with potential 20-plus home run pop, more athletic than having brute strength. As an amateur, he was said to have "good baseball athleticism" with almost average speed and average arm strength in the outfield. Carlson also played first base at a plus defensive level as a prep as well, but that position will be his last resort.

Some observers have compared Carlson to fellow position prospect Bryce Denton, who both play the game in a cerebral way and fit the mold of a Cardinals prospect. They both get outstanding reviews for their ability to make hard contact and off the charts makeup.

Ultimately, I see Carlson following the same path as Denton, starting his first full pro season in extended spring training and ending it with the Johnson City Cardinals.


Brian Walton (24): Though Carlson will forever be a first-round draft pick, his signing bonus suggests he is a mid-second rounder in comparative talent. The money the Cardinals saved on Carlson was extremely important as it covered the over slot portion of the bonuses given to three other top picks - Dakota Hudson, Connor Jones and Jeremy Martinez – with $80,000 left over to be used on others.

Despite my #24 ranking of Carlson, I agree with the community member who thinks the teen could one day surpass Sierra - though it is important to note they are different types of outfielders. Sierra was touted as having five-tool potential when at the same level as Carlson competed in 2016, the Gulf Coast League, but that is no longer the case. In the time since, it is clear that Sierra is more of a plus-defender, leadoff man type (if he can improve his on-base skills). Carlson, on the other hand, has a better chance of delivering power as he progresses.

Like the others quoted above, Cardinals minor league hitting coordinator George Greer has been impressed with Carlson.

“Great determination and great will to do everything you have asked him,” Greer told me this fall. “Mentally, he is probably not like a rookie. He is more like a second- or third-year player.”

In addition to the swing plane change highlighted above, his hitting coaches worked with the switch-hitter on honing his plate discipline.

“He really works hard at his craft and he works hard on any little suggestion you give him, especially not swinging at pitches that are not good for him early in the count,” Greer said.

Derek mentioned Carlson’s attitude and approach compares favorably with Denton. One difference is that Carlson is three inches taller despite being over a year younger.

I agree with Derek on Carlson’s most likely 2017 placement – extended spring training, followed by an assignment in the Appalachian League. However, if so, the question of whether he continues in center field may be faced quickly - if fellow first-rounder Nick Plummer also lands at Johnson City.

Drafted one year ahead of Carlson and over two years older, as well as profiling more as a true center fielder, Plummer would seem to get defensive priority, in my estimation. He missed all of 2016 after roaming center for the GCL Cards the prior summer and will turn 21 in July. More on him is coming very soon in this countdown.

TCN Scouting Grade: 6, Risk: Extreme (click here to review scales)

Our 2017 top 50 series continues

To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the top 50 countdown and nine in-depth, follow-up articles. Most of them are exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation. Thank you for being a member!

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