Dylan Carlson's first Spring Training with the big league club was so good, Cardinals manager Mike Shildt couldn't help but take notice.
On more than one occasion, Shildt sang Carlson's praises, saying the 20-year-old had the look of a ballplayer.
Two months later, Carlson's at Double-A Springfield and doing nothing to prove Shildt wrong. The outfielder picked in the first round of 2016 cracks a faint smile when reminded of the comments.
"It was an honor," Carlson said recently.
Before Thursday's games, Carlson, ranked sixth in the Cardinals' system, was hitting .296, with a .369 on-base percentage and is among the top five in the Texas League in hits (56), RBIs (35) and slugging percentage (.540).
So far, it's the best of his four professional seasons, coming right after he hit .246 with a .738 OPS over two Class A levels last season.
Video: Springfield's Carlson belts three-run homer
"I've really focused on my approach this year and really sticking to my plan and not giving into the other team's plan," Carlson said. "It's really been a focus on me, and trying to execute my plan."
That hasn't always been the easiest task for Carlson, the 33rd overall pick by the Cardinals out of Elk Grove High School in California.
As a rookie, he scuffled to .251 with a .718 OPS and in 2017 he hit .246 with a .738 OPS across two levels.
Looking back, Carlson said the struggles were mostly to due to the adjustment from high school to the professional ranks. And part of that, he said, had to do with the wealth of information provided in professional baseball and deciding what to concentrate on most.
For instance, Carlson said, if he knew a pitcher relied on a change-up, he'd try to hit a change-up rather than being patient and waiting for an eventual fastball.
2019 MiLB include
With the help of a spring in big league camp, and Springfield hitting coach Brandon Allen, who played parts of four seasons with the Diamondbacks, Athletics, and Rays, Carlson said he's found a happy medium.
"It's nice to have all that information," he said. "But it's easy to get lost in. So it's really nice to have [Allen] as my hitting coach, for me to lean on and help me dissect things."
And while Carlson is still one of the youngest players in the Texas League -- he'll turn 21 in October -- the spring compliments have set him up for what has been a breakout season so far.
"It is definitely a confidence boost," he said. "Not that I wasn't confident, but it really just lets you know that people believe in you and people are behind you. So, that definitely uplifts you a little bit."
New face: Brady Singer, the Royals' top prospect and No. 49 in baseball, will be facing Texas League hitters soon. Singer, selected 18th overall last June, was promoted to Double-A Northwest Arkansas on Wednesday and will likely make his debut over the weekend. Singer went 5-2 with a 1.87 ERA ad 53 strikeouts in 57 2/3 innings at Class A Advanced Wilmington prior to his promotion.
Good for them: The Arkansas Travelers aren't particularly close to the Texas League lead in stolen bases, but their total so far is pretty good compared to last season. The Travelers' 47 stolen bases before Wednesday's games were already more than the 40 they had all of last season when they were last among all Double-A teams. Jake Fraley leads the team with 12 stolen bases, while Dom Thompson-Williams has nine and Donnie Walton has seven.
Coming out hot: Amarillo infielder Ivan Castillo has been the Texas League's hottest hitter since coming off the injured list on May 3. Castillo, a 24-year-old veteran in his first season in the Padres organization, takes a 12-game hitting streak into Thursday's games, and he's hit safely in 19 of 21 games since being activated. He's hitting .333 with an .819 OPS for the Sod Poodles.
Leader moves on: Zach Reks spent the first month of the season among the Texas League home run leaders, clubbing nine for the Tulsa Drillers. It was plenty for the Dodgers, who promoted the outfielder picked in the 2017 Draft out of the University of Kentucky to Triple-A Oklahoma City on May 16. Reks hit .310 with nine home runs and 22 RBI for the Drillers.