In 2016, the St. Louis Cardinals employed 14 rookies - six position players and eight pitchers. Their contributions were considerable, totaling 9.5 fWAR, Wins Above Replacement for the season. That compares very favorably to the 6.3 mark from the 2015 Cardinals’ 13 first-year players.
Four of the 14 registered WARs over 1.0 and two over 2.0. Therefore, using WAR to narrow down the selection of candidates for The Cardinal Nation’s St. Louis Cardinals Rookie of the Year award was fairly straightforward.
While two home-grown Cardinals, infielder Greg Garcia and pitcher Alex Reyes, were strong performers, two relative newcomers to the organization, shortstop Aledmys Diaz and reliever Seung-hwan Oh, rose to the top over the 162-game season.
In a close finish, Diaz is The Cardinal Nation’s 2016 Rookie of the Year.
Here are key stats from the Cardinals’ rookie position players. They are ordered by the far right column, fWAR.
Across the National League, 2016 may be known as the Year of the Rookie Shortstop. Batting second in Colorado’s lineup in his first taste of the Majors, Trevor Story broke out of the gates with an impressive power surge. Before suffering a torn thumb ligament that ended his season two months early, Story was a top contender for the NL Rookie of the Year Award.
The likely winner, Corey Seager, also batting second for his Dodgers club, helped lead Los Angeles all the way into the NL Championship Series. His fWAR of 7.5 not only tops all NL rookies, it is second in the league overall, behind MVP front-runner Kris Bryant.
Like Story, Diaz’ NL Rookie of the Year campaign was limited by injury. The Cuban appeared in 111 games, missing a month due to a thumb fracture, but still batted .300. The shortstop’s .510 slugging percentage was first on the entire team, ahead of notable boppers Brandon Moss, Jedd Gyorko, Matt Adams, Matt Holliday and Randal Grichuk.
Diaz’ 2.7 WAR was not only tops among Cardinals first-year position players, it was second among all hitters on the team to TCN’s Player of the Year, Matt Carpenter. The Cuban’s .879 OPS, second-highest on the club, was also only .006 behind Carpenter. When Carpenter was unable to play in the MLB All-Star Game due to injury, Diaz was named to the NL squad as his replacement.
Already named our Relief Pitcher of the Year, Oh’s praises as one of the brightest spots of the season have already been sung. (Sorry about that!) Moving into the closer’s role in late June, the Korean native went 19 for 22 in save opportunities and logged 2.6 WAR overall.
Comparing the two rookies, the 26-year-old shortstop and the 34-year-old setup man-turned-closer, I gave the slight edge to the everyday player, Diaz.
Though I must admit I have wondered if the Cardinals’ 2016 might have concluded differently had Oh been closing all season long, I feel the same way about Diaz being kept at the bottom of the batting order until the season was one-fourth over.
Congratulations to Aledmys Diaz, The Cardinal Nation’s St. Louis Cardinals Rookie of the Year for 2016.
I want to come back to the 2016 season of Greg Garcia. It seems the use of the reserve infielder, in 257 plate appearances over 99 games, optimized his contribution at a very solid 1.9 WAR. Of special note is Garcia’s team-best walk rate of 14.8 percent, a half-point higher than leadoff man Carpenter.
To help put Garcia’s WAR into perspective, prior infielders Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso together never approached that level over their careers with St. Louis. In four seasons with the Cards, Descalso totaled just 0.1 WAR and in Kozma’s two full years with St. Louis, his aggregate WAR was -0.6.
Despite tossing just 46 innings, right-hander Alex Reyes shined when finally moved into the rotation for the final month of the season and delivered 1.4 WAR, fourth-best among Cardinals rookies. Had the wraps been taken off the organization’s top prospect earlier, he could have won this award.
Prior TCN St. Louis Rookies of the Year
I am not sure why it took so long to recognize this category, with this being just our third annual award.
|TCN Rookie of the Year|
Click here to review the prior decade’s annual award winners in all categories, majors and minors.
Link to master article with all 2016 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series. The series will conclude on Tuesday with our very comprehensive 2016 Cardinals season recap.
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