The St. Louis Cardinals spent their amateur signing season collecting quite a few exciting bats for their minor league system. From a potential top-five draft pick who slid in the rankings to intriguing prep bats to advanced college bats to potentially-explosive Latin teenagers, the Cardinals added a stable of interesting hitters to their organization.
These first-year players put up some impressive stats for their new teams, but one player stands atop the group with the best season, recognized as The Cardinal Nation’s Rookie Player of the Year for 2016.
It’s not the dynamic, potential franchise Puerto Rican.
It’s not the bonus baby from Mexico.
It’s not one of the prep bats with high upside.
It was the infielder who started his season as a Cardinal before being drafted by St. Louis.
2016 The Cardinal Nation Rookie Hitter of the Year: Shortstop Tommy Edman
Edman was selected by St. Louis from Stanford University in the sixth round of this year’s draft after his junior season. Despite him being ranked as the 475th best prospect by Baseball America heading into the draft, the Cardinals took him with the 196th pick. In the amateur ranks, Edman displayed his propensity to get on base. He ranked second among regulars for Stanford with a .358 OBP in 2016, and in the Cape Cod League in 2015, Edman got on base at a .385 clip.
MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo stated that Edman outplays his tools, and Edman certainly didn’t disappoint once assigned to the State College Spikes of the New York-Penn League. The 21-year-old spent most of his time at shortstop, but he did see action at second base as well.
Playing in the middle of the field, Edman hit .286/.400/.427 for a 151 wRC+, the second highest on the team among first-year players. Not only did the switch-hitter continue to get on base at a fantastic rate, he tied for second on the Spikes with four home runs, ranked third on the team with 33 RBI, and led the team with 19 stolen bases.
Edman’s performance contributed to the Spikes’ NYPL championship, helping him also win TCN’s State College Player of the Year award, but he was not alone in his significant efforts.
Second Place: Catcher Jeremy Martinez
Edman’s Spikes teammate is a former Pac-12 rival. The Cardinals drafted Martinez from the University of Southern California with their fourth-round selection. After slashing .376/.460/.563 for the Trojans, the Cardinals assigned him to the NYPL and kept him behind the plate.
Martinez actually outperformed Edman’s slash line by putting up a .325/.419/.433 season for a 157 wRC+, but it was Edman’s counting stats, especially his stolen bases, that tipped the scales in the shortstop’s favor. Martinez knocked just one home run and stole one base, but he did drive in 32 runs. Martinez also displayed an impressive arm behind the dish, gunning down 46% of would-be basestealers.
Third Place: Shortstop Delvin Perez
A failed PED test caused Perez to drop in the draft like a rock, from a potential #2 pick down to #23 for the Cardinals. Perez rewarded them in the early part of the season by coming out hitting like a madman. This especially bode well for the organization considering many considered his bat to be behind his defense.
However, his bat cooled as the season continued into late summer. Still, Perez was able to put up a .294/.352/.393 line with 12 steals and 19 RBI as a 17-year-old in the Gulf Coast League. Those numbers equate to a 123 wRC+ for the young Puerto Rican. Despite the late-season struggles, a strong season combined with his relative age to level lands Perez in third place.
Perez was a key part of the GCL Cardinals squad’s efforts in winning the league championship.
IF Caleb Lopes (Appalachian League) - .336/.488/.420, 166 wRC+, 22 RBI, 2 SB
C Andrew Knizner (Appalachian League) - .319/.423/.492, 156 wRC+, 6 HR, 42 RBI
C Carlos Soto (Dominican Summer League) - .303/.441/.394, 154 wRC+, 1 HR, 10 RBI
Link to master article with all 2016 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series. Of course, that will include our selections as the Reliever, Starting Pitcher and Player of the Year.
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