The Cardinals announced Tuesday that they’ve selected the contract of outfielder Lars Nootbaar from Triple-A Memphis and optioned outfielder Lane Thomas to Triple-A in his place. Left-hander Bernardo Flores Jr. was designated for assignment in order to create a 40-man roster spot for Nootbaar, who’ll be making his MLB debut when he first takes the field.
Nootbaar, 23, was the Cardinals’ eighth-round pick in 2018. He didn’t enter the season ranked among the organization’s top 30 prospects at Baseball America, MLB.com or FanGraphs, but the USC product’s monster season in Memphis has overshadowed that lack of fanfare.
Nootbaar has been an average or better hitter at every minor league stop prior to 2021 but has absolutely erupted with the RedBirds, slashing at a .329/.430/.557 clip. That output has come in just a 22-game sample, given a brief stay on the injured list, but for a Cardinals club that has yet again seen lackluster production in the outfield, the allure is understandable.
Cardinals outfielders are tied for 24th in the Majors with a 95 wRC+, as only Tyler O’Neill and Dylan Carlson have provided the club with above-average offensive production. St. Louis outfielders, as a group, rank 23rd in baseball with a .232 average, 24th with a .307 on-base percentage and 20th with a .401 slugging percentage (thanks primarily to O’Neill’s 15 round-trippers). Thomas, optioned out today to create 26-man roster space for Nootbaar’s promotion, has been one of the primary reasons for the group’s poor overall rankings, batting just .104/.259/.125 in a small sample of 58 plate appearances.
Flores, 25, was an April waiver claim out of the White Sox organization and appeared in just one big league game before today’s DFA. He faced three batters back in a May 5 loss to the Mets but was unable to retire any of them, issuing a pair of walks and a base hit. Flores had a nice run through the Double-A level as a member of the White Sox’ farm system, but he’s been roughed up for a 5.74 ERA with sub-par strikeout and walk rates while pitching for the Cardinals’ Triple-A affiliate (17.6 percent and 12.2 percent, respectively).
The Cardinals will have a week to trade Flores or attempt to pass him through outright waivers. If he passes through waivers unclaimed, they’ll be able to keep him in the organization without dedicating a 40-man roster spot to him.