Central Notes: O’Neill, Paddack, Madrigal

Cardinals outfielder Tyler O’Neill missed almost a month in the middle of this season, from mid-June to mid-July, due to a left hamstring strain. He went back on the IL September 17 due to the same injury, a left hamstring strain. At the time, it was reported as a Grade 1 strain, which is the less-serious variety. Regardless, over a week later, an O’Neill return doesn’t seem close.

Team president John Mozeliak was asked about the possibility of O’Neill returning in the postseason and had this to say, per Jim Hayes of Bally Sports Midwest: “I think there’s a shot, but obviously the clock is ticking.” That doesn’t seem to indicate the Cards are banking on a return. The club has now clinched the NL Central but are seven games behind the Mets and Braves, who are tied atop the East, and even further behind the Dodgers. That means they are destined to play in the first round of the playoffs against whoever finishes with the third Wild Card spot. Each round that they survive will increase the chances of O’Neill coming back, but he wouldn’t be able to find a rehab stint with the minor league seasons winding down. Even if he’s healthy, the Cards would have to view a rusty O’Neill as a better option than their current outfielders in order for him to get a shot.

O’Neill had a career year last year by hitting 34 home runs and swiping 15 bases on his way to producing 5.6 wins above replacement, according to FanGraphs. This year, various injuries have limited him to just 96 games and diminished production when on the field, with his .286/.352/.560 batting line from last year slipping to .228/.308/.392. Without him in the mix, the St. Louis outfield is currently composed of Lars Nootbaar, Dylan Carlson, Corey Dickerson, Juan Yepez, Alec Burleson and Ben DeLuzio.

More notes from the Central divisions…

  • Twins right-hander Chris Paddack underwent Tommy John surgery in May and is now targeting an August 2023 return, per Do-Hyoung Park of MLB.com. The surgery usually comes with a 12-18 month recovery window, but this is the second such procedure of Paddack’s career, having previously gone under the knife as a prospect in 2016. Paddack tells Park that the second recovery is going to take a bit longer, meaning the narrow end of the typical recovery window is closed. Since the best-case scenario involves Paddack missing the bulk of next year, the club will have to plan on building a rotation without him. He was just one of several Twins who missed significant time with injury this year, preventing them from hanging onto the AL Central lead that they held for a good chunk of the year. On paper, the 2023 rotation in Minnesota consists of Sonny Gray, who is sure to have his option exercised, alongside Tyler Mahle, Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober for four slots. Kenta Maeda could be a factor for the fifth, though he’ll be an unknown quantity after missing all of this year recovering from his own Tommy John surgery of the internal brace variety. Dylan Bundy and Chris Archer both have options that are unlikely to be exercised, subtracting them from the equation. The club could look for outside help given the uncertainty around Maeda, though they will also have internal options like Josh Winder, Louie Varland, Cole Sands, Jordan Balazovic, Devin Smeltzer and Simeon Woods Richardson, with Paddack hopefully joining them down the stretch.
  • Cubs infielder Nick Madrigal is on the injured list and won’t be returning this season, manager David Ross tells Meghan Montemurro of the Chicago Tribune. Madrigal landed on the shelf September 10 due to a groin strain, his second groin-related trip to the IL this year. It’s the second straight injury-marred campaign for him, after he was limited to 54 games in 2021 and just 59 here in 2022. He hit .305/.349/.425 last year but saw that line dip to .249/.305/.282 in this campaign. He came into this season with one year and 164 days of MLB service time, meaning he’s a lock to reach arbitration as a Super Two player this winter, though he likely won’t earn a huge raise given all the time he’s missed. The Cubs aren’t likely to be competitive in 2023 but will still want to see Madrigal show better results in order to keep him in their plans going forward.

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