Evaluating St. Louis Cardinals MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year cases

Paul Goldschmidt (46) celebrates with third baseman Nolan Arenado (28) after the Cardinals defeated the San Francisco Giants at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Paul Goldschmidt (46) celebrates with third baseman Nolan Arenado (28) after the Cardinals defeated the San Francisco Giants at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /
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Paul Goldschmidt (46) celebrates with third baseman Nolan Arenado (28) after the Cardinals defeated the San Francisco Giants at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /

Most Valuable Player

For the first time in a while, the Cardinals have more than one legitimate candidate for MVP. Maybe it’s the Albert Pujols effect. Whatever the reason, let’s jump right in.

Nolan Arenado

We’ll start the conversation with the preseason front-runner. No one is surprised that Nolan Arenado finds himself in the MVP discussion. He has finished top-10 in MVP voting five times in his career. One of the best all-around players of the last decade, the Cardinals would not be in first place without Arenado’s production.

At this point in mid-June, however, Nolan’s MVP candidacy has taken a bit of a hit. The NL player of the month in April, Arenado has fallen back to the rest of the pack. He’s slashing .271/.341/.480 on the year with an OPS+ of 136. As impressive as those numbers are, none are top ten in the National League.

Arenado’s MVP case becomes stronger after factoring in his excellent defensive numbers at third base. Nolan is fifth in the NL in defensive war and once again in contention for a gold glove. Defense can be really hard to value, but it seems Arenado’s overall WAR is given the right bump. He’s sixth in the NL, and one of only two players to be top ten both in defensive and overall WAR.

There is no doubt that Arenado is one of the best baseball players alive. If he is to win his first MVP, however, Arenado will have to have more months like he did in April than in May. I wouldn’t count him out of the race just yet.

Paul Goldschmidt

The biggest knock against Nolan Arenado’s MVP candidacy is that he might not be the best hitter on his team. Right now, that honor belongs to Paul Goldschmidt. Player of the Month in May and only getting better in June, Goldy might be the best hitter on the planet.

Goldschmidt leads the NL in each of the following categories: hits (81), batting average (.349), on-base (.431), slugging percentage (.642), and total bases (149). He leads all of Major League Baseball in OPS (1.073) and OPS+ (207). He’s second in the NL in home-runs (16) and leads the NL in offensive WAR (3.8) by almost a full win (second place is 3.1).

Exploring Statcast reveals other impressive numbers, too. Goldschmidt leads all of baseball in reaching base with two-strikes, he’s sixth in hits when the tying or go-ahead run is on-base, and he’s one of two players in baseball to be top five in hits against both fastballs and non-fastballs (the other is Rafael Devers). In other words, there’s no scenario where anyone wants to face him at the plate.

Notoriously a slow starter, fans have often wondered what would happen if Paul Goldschmidt was at his best for an entire season, and not just the second-half. Goldy has finished second in MVP voting twice in his career. If Vegas knows anything, 2022 is the year where Paul Goldschmidt finishes number one.

Tommy Edman

Without looking it up, who currently leads the Cardinals in WAR? On a team with Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt, the answer seems obvious. Well, with his defensive versatility, offensive consistency, and stellar base-running, the surprising leader is Tommy Edman.

I’ll let MLB Network analyst and one-time Cardinals utility man Mark DeRosa explain the magic of Tommy Edman:

Not to mention that Edman leads the NL in stolen bases. I wrote earlier that Nolan Arenado was one of two players to rank in the top ten in both defensive and overall WAR in the NL. Well, the other is Tommy Edman. Edman has found a way to positively impact every aspect of a baseball game. He’s been truly special this season, and that deserves to be recognized.

The last time the Cardinals had three players finish top 10 in MVP voting was 2004, when Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, and Jim Edmonds finished 3rd, 4th, and 5th, respectively. At the beginning of the season, we predicted it would once again be an outfielder to join the corner infielders in leading the Cardinals. A quarter of the way through 2022, however, it’s Tommy Edman making a legitimate case to be a member of a new Cardinals MV3.

Can Tommy Edman really win NL MVP? I’m not sure the answer matters. More importantly, we should be celebrating the breakout season of this former sixth-round pick.

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