The Cardinals announced a series of roster moves today, placing outfielder Dylan Carlson on the 10-day injured with a left thumb sprain. His spot on the roster has gone to fellow outfielder Alec Burleson. Since Burleson wasn’t previously on the 40-man roster, outfielder Conner Capel has been designated for assignment to open a spot.
Burleson, 23, was selected by the Cardinals 70th overall in the 2020 draft. There were no minor leagues for him to play in that year due to the pandemic, but he took off in 2021. He started in High-A and mashed his way up to Double-A after just 11 games. In 63 games with the Springfield Cardinals, he hit .288/.333/.488, producing a wRC+ of 116. That was enough to get him up to Triple-A for the end of the season, his third level of the year.
While Burleson struggled in his first taste of Triple-A, he’s dominated here in 2022. In 109 games with the Memphis Redbirds, he’s hit 20 home runs while striking out in only 14.3% of his plate appearances. His slash line on the year is .331/.372/.532, leading to a wRC+ of 138.
Thanks to his strong performance in the minors, Burleson has been creeping up prospect lists since his draft. Last year, Baseball America ranked him the #26 prospect in the Cards’ system, before bumping him up to #10 at the start of this year and #4 at the midseason update. BA also considers him the #66 prospect in the entire league.
As for Carlson, it’s unclear when or how he sustained his injury, as he entered last night’s game in the eighth inning as a pinch hitter. The club has not yet provided any information on how long they expect him to be out. He’s hitting .240/.316/.386 for the year, producing a wRC+ of 102. He’s played mostly center field this season but has seen Tyler O’Neill take over the bulk of the playing time up the middle lately. Burleson has mostly played left field in the minors, with a bit of time in right as well. He’ll try to replace Carlson’s bat and take some corner outfield time but likely won’t be an option in center, leaving that spot for O’Neill and Ben DeLuzio.
As for Capel, 25, he was drafted by Cleveland but came to the Cardinals in the 2018 trade that sent Oscar Mercado the other way. He was selected to the big league roster for the first time this June, producing a tepid batting line in a tiny sample of just 19 plate appearances. In 87 Triple-A games, he’s hit .258/.361/.425 for a 112 wRC+. He’s shown strong work at the plate in that stretch, striking out in just 16.4% of his plate appearances while walking in 13.3% of them. He’s also popped 1o homers and stolen 19 bases.
Despite some signs of optimism there, it seems Capel has been nudged out of the plans in St. Louis. Since the trade deadline has passed, the Cards will place him on outright waivers or release waivers in the coming days. Given his full slate of options and limited service time, he could prove to be an intriguing option for the 29 other clubs.