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Closing Time: Tyler O'Neill claims some turf

Tyler O’Neill has added a jolt of adrenaline to the slumping Cardinals offense (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

It’s been a while since the Cardinals had an offense to boast about. St. Louis was 13th in runs last year, and it’s 15th thus far this year. St. Louis may have avoided the infamous Heyward quicksand, but Kolten Wong, Matt Carpenter, Marcell Ozuna and Dexter Fowler have been a mess this year.

Maybe Tyler O’Neill can help.

O’Neill, an outfielder, barely cracked the prospect rankings the last couple of years. He was in the 30-60 range before 2017, then fell significantly this year (Baseball Prospectus dropped him completely). The Cardinals sent the 23-year-outfielder to Memphis and didn’t have immediate expectations. O’Neill didn’t walk much in the minors, but he did homer 13 times in 29 games, along with a .708 slugging percentage.

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O’Neill was recalled on May 18, Reggie Jackson’s birthday, and he’s done a nifty Reggie impersonation since then. O’Neill homered Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, adding a double and a walk. The Cardinals have scored 17 runs in those three games, winning two of them.

(Here’s the latest home run, and opposite-field shot. The power is real.)

So now the question becomes, who sits in favor of O’Neill? Fowler rode the pine Saturday and Monday, while Ozuna didn’t play Sunday. Tommy Pham is locked in at center field, justifiably.

O’Neill’s power surge might be screening a snappy week from Carpenter, who’s on a 13-for-24 binge with a homer (in Monday’s win) and seven doubles. That hashes out to a .542/577/.958 slash. Players get hot and cold all the time and often it’s not attributable to anything but variance, but Carpenter has been so lost at the plate this year — and presumably less than 100 percent — I’m looking for anything I can hang my hat on. It’s one thing to hit a scratch single here and there, but all these extra-base hits matter to me. The Cardinals seem to like him in the No. 2 spot in the order.

If you want to kick the tires on O’Neill, he’s owned in 27 percent of Yahoo leagues. And if you’re done with the Fowler experience, I’m not going to tell you you’re wrong.

• The Cardinals might have some pitching reinforcements on the way, too. Alex Reyes is coming back from Tommy John surgery and he’s been mowing down everyone in the low minors. Here’s what he done in three rehab turns: 16 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 6 BB, 31 K.

I can understand if you want to be suspicious when Reyes is dominating Single-A hitters, but his last start was a 13-strikeout gem at Double-A. It sounds like Reyes, 23, will make one more rehab turn, then join the Cardinals at the end of the month.

Remember, Reyes wasn’t just another prospect, he was a touted, ballyhooed kid. Before 2017, all three major scouting services had him in the Top 6 (and BP had him first overall). You want plausible upside, it’s here. Reyes is DL-eligible in most Yahoo leagues, and still unowned in about half of them.

• The Rays are trying to have fun in the midst of a season going nowhere. They’re 22-23. They did the Sergio Romo experiment in Anaheim. They play in a park that’s hard to get to and soul-crushing when you finally get there. The Yankees and Red Sox have a few unfair advantages, you might say.

But there is some talent in the Tampa system. And on Tuesday, Willy Adames joins the party.

Adames, a 22-year-old shortstop, has been around the Top 20 of MLB prospects for two years. He’s been a productive player in 40 games at Triple-A Durham this year — .311/.387/.466, four homers, three steals. You’d like to see more category juice, but it’s still an interesting line. An .853 OPS from your shortstop will play.

We have to assume Tampa is going to start Adames since they’re recalling him. In the meantime, he’s free to add in 97 percent of Yahoo leagues.