As a player who was barely replacement level in his five years before joining the Cardinals, outfielder Ryan Ludwick‘s improbable breakout once the Cardinals signed him as a free agent showed that the team saw something in him — and so did the pixies.
Ludwick was riddled with injuries from 2002 to 2005, requiring four surgeries — two for the same injury. When Ludwick signed with the Cardinals in 2007, he was healthy but had a career slash line of .237/.299/.416. After playing in 29 Triple-A games with the Memphis Redbirds, Ludwick was promoted to the big league squad after an injury to outfielder Preston Wilson.
He didn’t look back, as he had a career-high 339 plate appearances in 2007 and hit .267/.339/.479. 2008 was his finest year, as Ludwick made the All-Star team for the only time in his career and won a Silver Slugger award. He had career highs in nearly every batting category, with an impressive average of .299.
Ludwick also stayed healthy for nearly all of his Cardinals tenure, only missing two weeks in 2009 with a hamstring issue. It was an impressive feat of durability for a player who had gone through so many surgeries earlier in his career.
The Cardinals traded Ludwick to the San Diego Padres during the 2010 season for pitcher Jake Westbrook. Ludwick played for four more years but never reached the heights of his Cardinals days. Ludwick’s career Wins Above Replacement stat is 11.2, and 10.7 of that was with the Cardinals. His story shows that even if the Cardinals didn’t develop a player from draft to MLB debut, they can still coax productivity out of another team’s castoff.