Cardinals Crave Offense as Victor Scott II Struggles

With multiple outfielders on the shelf, the St. Louis Cardinals have turned to top prospect Victor Scott II, but it hasn't been pretty.

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 28: Victor Scott II #11 of the St. Louis Cardinals looks on the from dugout after his at bat in the eighth inning during the game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, March 28, 2024 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

The St. Louis Cardinals opened the 2024 campaign without the vast majority of their starting outfield. Each of Lars Nootbaar, Tommy Edman and Dylan Carlson kicked off the season on the injured list.

Nootbaar has since returned, but Edman and Carlson are still down with no return in sight. Edman underwent wrist surgery last October and has only just recently began baseball activities. His rehab has been shut down multiple times and he’s far from a sure thing right now.

Carlson sprained his shoulder in March and hasn’t gotten much press since then. From what I’ve heard, a mid-May return seems to be in the cards for him.

Once the injuries struck, Victor Scott II, the Cardinals’ top prospect per MLB Pipeline and Just Baseball’s No. 49 prospect was the top benefactor, as he went from the Opening Day roster’s “just missed” list, to the team’s every day center fielder.

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However, the results just have not been there. Scott, 23, is just 5-for-55 (.091) since he debuted on Opening Day. Growing pains are a part of the game and most prospects deal with them, but he has yet to turn things around through the first 16 games.

All throughout the minor leagues, Scott’s primary calling card was his speed. Last season, he stole an unheard of 94 bases in 132 games. The fact that he paired those steals with a .303 average and .794 OPS makes the feat even more impressive.

Kicking off 2024, Scott remains in the 100th percentile in sprint speed. There are few, if any, players in baseball faster than he is. That doesn’t mean he’s going to be given the Terrance Gore treatment, used specifically as a pinch-runner, but he’s going to have to turn things around if he hopes to remain on the roster.

Cardinals Desperately Need Offense With Multiple Outfielders Injured

The Cardinals are in a tough spot now, as they can give Scott a longer leash in hopes of him catching fire, or they can begin to look elsewhere for offense. Giving him the benefit of the doubt sounds nice and all, but the Cards are 8-9 and comfortably in last place in the NL Central. Something’s got to give.

It’s a tough call, because there is absolutely no doubt that Scott has what it takes to be a big leaguer. However, that doesn’t mean that he couldn’t use a bit more time in Triple-A Memphis. Both can be true.

Once either Edman or Carlson makes their return, it seems that Scott will be the one going the other way. This doesn’t mean the Cardinals are “down” on him, but rather than he has been completely overmatched in the majors and needs some additional seasoning.

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Are There Any Temporary Internal Options?

Not really, which further complicates the matter.

When it comes strictly to 40-man options, Michael Siani is already on the big league bench but he’s all glove, no bat. Alfonso Rivas is down in Memphis but he’s very much limited to a corner outfield spot and has never shown that he deserves a consistent role in the big leagues.

One interesting possibility could be moving Nootbaar to center field and letting someone like Alec Burleson take over in left field. The major problem with that, though, is the fact that Burleson can’t field to save his life. I’ve highlighted before that Burleson and Jordan Walker, two corner outfielders, are both horrendous on defense.

Last season, Nootbaar ranked in the 80th percentile in OAA, 72nd in Arm Value and 78th in Arm Strength, so he has the tools to play center field, even if it’s only until Edman and/or Carlson return.

If your preference is to keep Nootbaar in a corner spot, how about British outfielder Matt Koperniak?

The 26-year-old is hitting .268 through 12 games with Memphis to start the year and is coming off of a season in which he hit 18 home runs with 85 RBI in 129 games last year. He has extensive experience in all three outfield spots, so if offense is what the Cardinals are searching for, perhaps he could be an option.

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Of course, most solutions to the Cardinals’ problems come with their own respective warts. Koperniak is not currently on the 40-man roster, which is full. Calling him up would mean cutting ties with another player on the 40-man, which at times can be easier said than done.

What’s the Best Option?

Scott deserves a bit more time since there’s not exactly anybody in the minor leagues kicking down the door. If a week (or two) from now he still is hovering around a .100 batting average, he’s got to go down to Memphis. The Cardinals simply can’t keep throwing him out there if he’s not 100% percent ready.

Giving Scott some run is the top option. However, Nootbaar sliding over to center needs to be seriously considered as well. Now that he’s back in action, the Cardinals should lean on him as frequently as they need to, especially if they’re serious about getting above .500 and out of the Central’s basement.

Entering the day, the Cardinals offense is 22nd in runs scored and batting average, 23rd in wRC+ and 24th in OBP. Whatever choice they plan to make here, they can’t afford to wait too long. Before we know it, they could be looking at their second-straight embarrassing season.