Palm Beach Cardinals 2012 Player of the Year

In a mild upset, second baseman Starlin Rodriguez is our top Cardinals player in the Florida State League, edging out batting champion Mike O'Neill.

The Palm Beach Cardinals dealt with many inconsistencies at the plate this season, from constant lineup rearrangements to injuries, with each game seemingly bringing a different surprise.

However, the one constant, the vital cog to the season, was Starlin Rodriguez. Yes, you read it correctly; the second baseman takes our honor as The Cardinal Nation/ Palm Beach Cardinals Player of the Year for 2012.

Some will argue aggressively about Mike O'Neill being Palm Beach's top player. After all, the left-handed hitter finished the season as the Florida State League leader in batting average (.342) and on base percentage (.442), while adding two organizational Player of the Month awards. The outfielder's performance earned him a late-season promotion to Double-A Springfield.

So how can anyone pick Rodriguez over O'Neill?

First of all, it was a very difficult decision. O'Neill was the best at various offensive categories and was a spark plug at the top of the order. However, Rodriguez' versatility made the choice easier. Rodriguez hit first, second and third in Johnny Rodriguez' batting order in 2012. He started the season in the third spot of the lineup and moved to leadoff when the team struggled to produce runs. The right-handed hitter eventually settled into the two spot.

While Rodriguez kept moving in the batting order, his numbers did not suffer. As the leadoff hitter, he hit .365, while hitting .298 in the two hole and .278 in the third spot.

Rodriguez finished the season with an even .300 average with eight home runs and 48 RBI. He was second on the team in average (.300), home runs (8), RBI (48), OPS (.442), while leading the team in runs scored (66), slugging (.442) and stolen bases (16).

During the month of August when the rest of the team was struggling through a 2-11 record, Rodriguez continued to produce at the plate. He picked up a hit in 18 straight games, while not taking a day off during the time period. In the 18 games, the Dominican Republic native hit .366 with 10 extra base hits. He scored 12 runs and 14 RBI in 71 at bats.

In comparison, O'Neill's longest hitting streak of the season was 15 games.

Both players earned mid-season FSL All-Star awards and end of the season All-FSL All-Star Team selections.

They were both vital in the success of the Palm Beach Cardinals, but the responsibility of having to play in the center of the diamond and hit made Starlin a better all-around selection. After all, it is Player of the Year, not hitter.

Link to master article with all 2012 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series.

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