(BaseballStL) -- If the St. Louis Cardinal outfield seems crowded now, it’s about to get a lot worse as young and very talented Redbirds are incubating in Memphis.
Currently, Tommy Pham, Randal Grichuk, Jeremy Hazelbaker and Stephen Piscotty join Matt Holliday, in the last year of his contract with an option for next year. But sometime next year, the Redbirds could see at least two prized prospects force their way onto the big club, meaning major shuffling and tough decisions for Redbird brass.
Charlie Tilson, the speedy 24-year-old center fielder who the Cards drafted out of high school in the second round in 2011, appears closest to being ready to perform at the big league level. Injured early in his career, Tilson has been healthy lately and is showing the speed and ability to hit for average the Cards desperately needs in a lead-off man.
Tilson is hitting .283 on the season, with 15 stolen bases, 15 doubles and a Memphis-record eight triples so far this year.
Tilson made history Wednesday, getting his eighth triple of the season to tie Stubby Clapp (2000) and Kolten Wong (2013) for the most in a single season in Redbirds history. Tilson is now hitting .315 in the leadoff spot in the lineup and has reached base at least once in 26 of the last 29 games in which he appeared. The personable speedster is intelligent, articulate and told BaseballStL that his focus on excellence has driven him in his rise through the Redbirds’ farm system. Considered extremely coachable, Tilson looks to challenge in center field at some point.
Also advancing very rapidly is corner outfielder Harrison Bader, who was drafted in 2015 and skipped Class A Palm Beach (advanced), being promoted directly to Springfield (Class AA) this season. So impressive was his work there that the Cards have promoted him again, this time to Memphis where he joins Tilson in a talented outfield. Bader has hit safely in nine of the first 12 games he has played in for the Redbirds and is hitting .286 in Pacific Coast League play (14-49). Equally impressive is the fact that he slammed 13 homers at Springfield, giving him the unusual combination of average and power. Bader, 22, was playing for the University of Florida a year ago before the Cards took him in the third round.
The other talented member of the Memphis outfield, David Washington, is a power-hitting home run threat, something the Cards had not seen in the minor leagues in recent years. Washington has hit 22 long ones this season; five at Springfield and 17 in Memphis, including a bomb Wednesday night that helped the Redbirds halt a six-game losing streak.
Washington, 25, is 6-5 and 260 pounds and his 22 home runs lead the Cardinals organization.
An outfield of Piscotty, Bader and Tilson in coming years seems possible, offering the combination of defense, speed, power and the traditional lead-off man the Cards have been without for several years.