Making his major league debut during a pandemic while on a team forced to play an aggressive schedule making up games due to time lost, rookie Dylan Carlson made lemonade out of lemons. His surface numbers do not reflect this sentiment and many may pass him by in 2021 fantasy drafts reading only his .200/.252/.364 slash line over 119 plate appearances with 11 runs, three home runs, 16 RBI and a stolen base.

However, this would be a mistake. For starters, he maintains his rookie eligibility in 2021 and he sits atop the Cardinals list of prospect rankings. Forced to develop at the alternate site rather than at Triple-A, he showed signs of improvement in last year's limited sample. First, peruse his minor league numbers at the top two levels:

-       Carlson Triple-A: 79 plate appearances, five home runs, nine RBI, two stolen bases; .361/.418/.681

-       Carlson Double-A: 108 games, 483 plate appearances, 21 home runs, 59 RBI, seven stolen bases; .281/.364/.518, 10.8 BB%, 20.3 K%

Despite his .200 average, Carlson recorded a 6.7 walk percentage. His 29.4 strikeout percentage comes with a grain of salt since he only faced fastballs in 50.4 percent of his plate appearances with teams feeding him a steady diet of offspeed offerings. After a slow start, Carlson started to turn the corner evidenced by his rolling weighted on-base average (wOBA) chart on Statcast:








In September, seven of Carlson's ten hits resulted in extra-bases (seven doubles, one triple, two home runs) driving in 11 runs in 14 contests. Carlson hit clean-up for St. Louis in the playoffs while recording a .333/.571/.444 slash line with two runs, a double, a stolen base, and four walks versus three strikeouts. His 27.4 O-Swing (outside the strike zone) percentage during his debut bodes well for future plate discipline metrics.

According to Statcast, Carlson recorded 76 batted ball events with seven barrels (9.2 percent), an 87.4 MPH average exit velocity and 42.1 percent hard hit rate. His expected statistics reinforce better outcomes going forward with a .246 expected batting average, .441 expected slugging and .314 expected wOBA (50 points above his actual).

He made contact in the strike zone at a 77.4 percent clip but proved aggressive with a 41.1 swing percentage and 30.7 percent whiff rate. A few more fly balls would be welcomed but do not ignore his robust 35.5 line drive percentage almost ten points above league average. In fact, his solid plus barrel rates represent 23.7 percent of his batted ball events. There's some sneaky power within this profile.

Knowing Carlson can turn on a fastball, his spray and slice charts display a mature approach: 








Projection sets struggle with the unknown which Carlson represents. He's better than last year's results but by how much and how soon? Here's how five sites see his 2021:



Taking the over on power (calling 23 home runs), the over on stolen bases (at least 12) and if he hits in the top five spots in the lineup, boost those counting statistics as well. This may be the last draft season Carlson comes with such a discount since he's on track to replicate an Austin Meadows -esque type season in 2021. If Carlson comes close to his Double-A slash lines, giddy up.

Statistical Credits:

THE BAT and THE BAT X courtesy of Derek Carty

ATC courtesy of Ariel Cohen

ZiPS courtesy of Dan Szymborski