2013 Palm Beach Cardinals Player of the Year

In a neck-and-neck race, first baseman Jonathan Rodriguez edged out outfielder David Popkins as The Cardinal Nation's top hitter on the St. Louis Cardinals' A-Advanced club.

In selecting a top hitter, the debate is always, power hitter or hitter for average?

Which would you take?

In an ideal world, everyone would choose both, but it is not that easy.

In 2013, two Palm Beach Cardinals truly excelled at the plate. David Popkins and Jonathan Rodriguez pushed the Beach Birds to the brink of their first postseason appearance since 2008.

Despite the club falling short of a Florida State League playoff berth, both Popkins and Rodriguez did all that was asked of them at the dish.

First, let's start with Popkins. The switch-hitting outfielder started the 2013 campaign with the Class-A Peoria Chiefs, but after four games and a .125 (1-for-8) batting average, he was moved up to A-Advanced Palm Beach to help the depleted outfield.

Popkins may have been added for depth, but he soon moved into a leading role in manager Johnny Rodriguez' lineup for good. The former UC Davis Aggie turned in a masterful season, hitting a team-high .317 (111-for-350) with 21 doubles, six triples, six home runs and 45 RBI.

The month of June was Popkins' best. He was named Topps FSL Player of the Month after posting a .413 batting average. The outfielder also topped the league with 38 hits. He ranked among the top five in OBP (2nd, .450), OPS (3rd, 1.048), slugging percentage (4th, .598) and runs (5th, 18).

The 23-year-old followed up his campaign by being honored with a berth on the Florida State League post-season All-Star team.

Impressive, right?

So how is it that Rodriguez is our 2013 Palm Beach Player of the Year, you may ask?

Well, let's start with the numbers. Rodriguez batted .284 (129-for-455) with 34 doubles, 18 home runs and 72 RBI. He led the team in hits, doubles, home runs, RBI, runs (71) and stolen bases (21). He was a mid-season and post-season FSL All-Star, and received Player of the Week honors for his outstanding play from 7/31 through 8/5.

The 24-year-old was also recognized by the St. Louis Cardinals organization, named the system-wide Minor League Player of the Month in July. The San Juan, Puerto Rico native received the same recognition here at The Cardinal Nation.

In July, Rodriguez compiled a .382 batting average while collecting 28 RBI on seven doubles and six home runs. In 25 games, the right-handed hitter had 11 multi-hit games, a .663 slugging percentage, .441 on-base percentage and three stolen bases.

His numbers represented a tremendous rebound, after he missed the second half of last season with a wrist injury. Rodriguez' hard work paid off, as he was just two home runs shy of becoming the first 20-20 man in Palm Beach history.

While it wasn't an easy decision, Jonathan Rodriguez earned his selection as The Cardinal Nation 2013 Palm Beach Cardinals Player of the Year.

Link to master article with all 2013 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series. Of course, that will include our selections as the Player of the Year across all the Cardinals minor league affiliates as well as our system-wide awards.

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