Donnie Ball: The emergence of the next Cardinals' Red Jacket

St. Louis Cardinals Photo Day
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Could Brendan Donovan be a future Cardinals' Hall of Famer?

Since 2019, the roster for the St Louis Cardinals has added superstars via trades, patched holes in the pitching staff, and most impressively has developed young talent all across the organization which has the league on notice for their quality depth.

We have seen the team become more competitive year in and year out which is also shown in the regular season win column. 2023 shows to be the most promising yet, with many players fighting for roster spots and a chance to be an everyday starter. One player is in this situation but is ready to show the league that he is more than a utility player. Brendan Donovan is ready to establish his presence in Major League Baseball and earn his Red Jacket. 

Welcome to the Show: Donnie Ball

2022 showed a glimpse into the roster depth and how it can be utilized. Shortstop and Second Base were serious question marks going into the season, given Paul DeJong’s struggles and no promising prospect near to take over. Nolan Gorman made the position change to second with a generational talent holding down the fort. He notably struggled but at times was effective in the field, and really struggled to adapt to big league pitching, It was a given that he needed more time to develop. Tommy Edman showed off his skillset and managed shortstop for a bit, then made it his new home. So……anybody available to play second?

Here comes Brenden Donovan. 

Donovan had one of the better rookie seasons in recent memory for Cardinals players. He finished the season with a slash line of .281/.394/.379 and a 126 OPS+. That is very productive for a player in his first professional season. What truly makes this player special is his ability to play anywhere on the diamond. His 2022 campaign produced a 4.1 WAR which was accumulated playing six different positions throughout the season. Outfield is where his most amount of innings was played but he qualified for enough innings at second base to earn himself a Gold Glove award. What makes this so special? He is one of only six players since 1980 to win the Gold Glove as a rookie. This campaign earned him third place in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. 

The roadmap to the Red Jacket

Everyone is probably thinking: after one season in the big leagues, you are already calling BRENDAN DONOVAN a Cardinals Hall of Famer? And I am here to say…….Absolutely yes! 

The information provided earlier shows that Donovan is a good baseball player. Especially the type of player Cardinals fans adore. We love guys who show up day in and day out willing to play anywhere and grind through 9 innings. We have gotten that from Tommy Edman since 2019 and he is still marveled at by the fans. Donovan is up next and this is just the beginning.

So what exactly makes this player a Hall of Famer? Let's make a comparison to give you an idea. Matt Carpenter’s 2012 season vs Brendan Donovan’s 2022 season. *SPOILER* These seasons are almost mirrors on the wall. Let's take a look at the slash lines:

Carpenter: .294/.365/.463 (125 OPS+), 22 2B, 6 HR, 46 RBI, 137 TB

Donovan: .281/.394/.379 (126 OPS+), 21 2B, 5 HR, 45 RBI, 148 TB

This can be argued as a subjective analysis. But this is eerily similar. The sample size is off by 128 PA but it gives you an idea of how these seasons compare to each other. Matt Carpenter is viewed by the majority of fans as a future red jacket. His contributions to the team over the last decade have cemented his legacy within the confines of Busch Stadium. But what if I told you Donovan was the better player in these two similar seasons?

Carpenter was regarded as the utility dirtrat. He could play anywhere on the field and played at a high level. Donovan did the same but at a much higher level. In 2012 Carpenter produced a 1.1 WAR season where the oWAR was only 1.6, given his dWAR value was -0.8. Donovan produced a 4.1 season with a 3.1 OWAR and a 0.9 DWAR. Carpenter finished 6th in Rookie of the Year voting and followed up the next season and placed 4th in NL MVP voting and secured his first All-Star Game appearance. If that became his roadmap…….how much better will Donovan’s sophomore season be?

His to lose

Spring Training is displacing the biggest roster battle in recent memory. Brendan Donovan on paper should easily have second base locked down. But it will not be that easy. Nolan Gorman is his biggest threat and is already receiving praise for his off-season training. Gorman has focused on high fastballs and adjusting his plate approach. Everyone knows of his unbelievable power from the left side, but he has come a long way in the field adjusting to second base. Given his hype coming up through the minors, the organization will be expecting him to take over the position. 

Is Brendan Donovan going to give it up that easy? Doesn’t appear like it. He is having the best start to Spring Training by any Cardinal player. 2 homers in the first week of games, with a notice of increased bat speed and strength. With the World Baseball Classic starting next week, Gorman should be receiving many opportunities to prove how valuable his bat is. But it will take the whole month for him to prove his value over Brendan Donavans. 

Is Brendan Donovan replaceable? Is Nolan Gorman the true second baseman for this team? Will Donovan find himself as a trade piece for a starting pitcher? Or is Donnie Ball the next generation in Cardinals Baseball? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section or on our Twitter page

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