Rookie of the Year
By this point, I think everyone in baseball has heard of Cardinals Devil Magic. A relatively unknown rookie shows up midseason in St. Louis and becomes a household name. To the chagrin of the rest of the league, it feels like this phenomenon happens every year.
What people might not know is that excluding the shortened 2020 season, at least one Cardinals player has received rookie of the year votes every season since Matt Carpenter in 2012. Unsurprisingly, they are the only team in baseball with this streak.
2021- Dylan Carlson (3rd)
2020- no one (60-game season)
2019- Dakota Hudson (5th)
2018- Jack Flaherty (5th), Harrison Bader (6th)
2017- Paul DeJong (2nd)
2016- Aledmys Diaz (5th), Seung-Hwan Oh (6th)
2015- Stephen Piscotty (6th)
2014- Kolten Wong (3rd)
2013- Shelby Miller (3rd)
2012- Matt Carpenter (6th)
This season, there are three candidates to continue the trend, and potentially break through to finish first. Let’s look at each one, before evaluating their competition from around the league. A quick shoutout to Andre Pallante and Matthew Liberatore, who have been solid on the mound but probably won’t get enough innings to compete for the award.
Yepez has slowed down a bit since his torrid start, but he’s still slashing .272/.332/.440 with five home runs. Simply put, Juan Yepez knows how to hit. If Yepez can continue to get at-bats, there is no doubt that he can build a strong rookie of the year case.
Now that the top prospect has shown he can field his position at second, there’s no reason to send Nolan Gorman down to the minors. Not to mention the heads-up baserunning. I wouldn’t be shocked if Gorman went on a tear sometime over the next month, vaulting up the rookie rankings and establishing himself as a core part of the St. Louis Cardinals future.
Is there anything this guy can’t do? Brendan Donovan has batted in each spot in the lineup and played six different positions in the field this season. More importantly, Donovan walked more than he’s struck out, leads qualified NL rookies in OPS, and leads all NL rookie hitters in WAR. It’s not only that Donnie can do everything– it’s that he can do everything really, really well.
So Yepez has an outside shot, Gorman has the prospect recognition, and Donovan is the surprising early leader. Despite their strong start, however, the young Cardinals trio has staunch competition from around the league.
Two Cubs outfielders, Christopher Morel and Seiya Suzuki, are right on Donovan’s tail on the OPS leaderboard. Hunter Greene in Cincinnati and Mackenzie Gore in San Diego are both top draft picks pitching like aces of the future. Spencer Strider and Michael Harris are each performing well for the Atlanta Braves. And we haven’t yet seen the debut of Pirates prospect O’Neil Cruz.
Young players can be wildly inconsistent, and a lot can change in the rookie of the year race. But I’d put my money on Gorman and Donovan keeping pace with the rest of the league for the whole season. It’s due time for the St. Louis Cardinals to have another Rookie of the Year.