St. Louis Cardinals’ Arizona Fall League Preview: Paul DeJong

Oct 8, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak talks with the media during NLDS workout day prior to game one of the NLDS against the Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 8, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak talks with the media during NLDS workout day prior to game one of the NLDS against the Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /

Rolling along with our Arizona Fall League previews, AA affiliate Springfield Cardinals power-hitting third basemen, Paul DeJong, is up next as the St. Louis Cardinals have elected to get an extensive look at him.

The St. Louis Cardinals have chosen the six players that they will be sending to the Arizona Fall League’s Glendale Desert dogs. As a team, we here at Redbird Rants are covering them separately and giving you a heads up on how each player has performed in 2016 and how they profile. We will also be giving you our opinion on if/when the player will make the majors.

After a successful three years spent with the Illinois State Redbirds, Paul DeJong was drafted in the 4th round of the 2015 MLB Amateur Draft. In his three seasons in college, DeJong managed to hit .326, 42 doubles, 23 HR, 113 RBI, with a .547 SLG%. Scouts may rave about his bat production, but his fielding is no slouch either as he posted a .954 fielding percentage as a Redbird.

DeJong performed well enough, after he was drafted, at the low-A and rookie ball levels to garner enough support to skip high-A and proceed straight to AA Springfield, where he spent all of 2016. As a 22 year old, he hit nearly .500 in only ten games at Johnson City before he was promoted to low-A Peoria to play in his birth state.

In Peoria, DeJong showed his run-producing capabilities driving in 26 runs to go along with five home runs. Additionally, the amount of steals he had during this 56 game stretch, 13, caught my eye because he only stole three bases in his three years at Illinois State.  During 2016, he also managed only three steals, while being caught twice.

This bag swiping ability has me wondering if it was managerial decisions or if catchers are just that poor defensively. Regardless, DeJong remained one of the strongest prospects coming into the season.

Those numbers were enough for the Illinois native to head south for 2016 where he joined the Springfield Cardinals where he remained for the entirety of 2016. Although his bat seemed to be boom-or-bust with a large amount of home runs accompanied by a low-average, his consistency improved as he neared the end of the regular season.  To this tune, he ended the 2016 campaign batting .257 with 21 homers.

Those numbers are nice and all, but his ability to drive in runs is most impressive to me considering that he spent the majority of the season batting in the six hole. He ranks in the top five in RBI in the Texas League. The strikeout numbers are cause for concern, however, in terms of his major league hopes, as he owns greater than 140 for the 2016 season.

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DeJong’s glove is adequate enough to be an every day player in the big leagues. Through his two seasons in the minor leagues, he has played 173 of 184 games at third base. When Matt Carpenter joined the Springfield Cardinals as a part of rehab, DeJong played short stop. Although he is considered a third basemen, his skills at shortstop looked sharp enough (with additional development) to provide more versatility in the future.

Major League ETA

Due to a currently-crowded St. Louis Cardinals infield, DeJong is looking, at least, at another full season in the minor leagues next season, in my opinion. This Illinois State product has shown the capability of producing at AA.  If we look at Memphis’ roster, on the other hand, the likes of Patrick Wisdom, Matt Williams, Dean Anna, and Breyvic Valera are reasons why DeJong has been left in AA.

The St. Louis Cardinals third base seems secured by Matt Carpenter (signed through 2020 with a club option in the final season). Aledmys Diaz looks to be the shortstop of the future, as does Kolten Wong at second base (if he can improve after a dismal 2016).  Do these things prohibit DeJong’s rise?  My answer: at least in the interim.

First base is a question mark as Brandon Moss is a free agent and Matt Adams is an iffy situation. Carpenter has and could move over to first if absolutely necessary to make room for DeJong if the St. Louis Cardinals organization were to be ready. At this point, though, I don’t see this happening in 2017.

Next: Arizona Fall League Preview: Corey Littrell

Bottom line, my prediction for DeJong is to make an appearance in St. Louis is 2018, and that might be a short stint depending how the roster looks.  Much of these speculations rely on what happens with many of the current roster members of the St. Louis Cardinals so time will certainly tell.