photo: Dakota Hudson and Tommy Edman (center) (Dale Zanine/Imagn)
Pete Alonso was the runaway winner of the 2019 National League Rookie of the Year Award, and deservedly so. The first baseman led the entire major leagues with 53 home runs and plated 120 runs for the New York Mets.
The St. Louis Cardinals also had a first-year player who received a pair of votes – starting pitcher Dakota Hudson. Among top contributors to the 2019 Cardinals, Hudson was joined by two other rookies, neither of whom were on the roster to open the season – relief pitcher Giovanny Gallegos and utilityman Tommy Edman.
It is not one bit of exaggeration to assert that the Cardinals would not have won the National League Central Division without this trio of first-year players, each with a different role and path to success.
Edman was promoted to St. Louis on June 8 and over the rest of the season, the 24-year old became a very important performer, contributing 3.2 fWAR. Since his arrival, the switch-hitter led the Cardinals in hits (99), triples (7) and stolen bases (15). Edman was second in runs (59), doubles (17), extra base hits (35) and total bases (163) and fifth in home runs (11) and RBI (36).
The former Stanford star was a versatile defender, starting 41 games at third base, 23 at second base and even 11 in right field. It is notable that he did not play an inning at shortstop.
Compared to all National League rookies in 2019, Edman stacked up very well, ranking among the top 10 in batting average (.304, 4th), multi-hit games (31, 7th), runs (59, 8th), hits (99, 10th), triples (7, 1st), stolen bases (15, T6th), slugging percentage (.500, 6th), on-base percentage (.350, 7th), game-winning RBI (7, 4th) and grand slams (1, T1st).
It was an all-around impressive season by TCN’s 2019 Cardinals Rookie of the Year, delivered in just four months.
Hudson was among the National League’s best rookie pitchers in many categories, including ERA (3.35, 2nd), wins (16, 1st), starts (32, T1st), saves (1, T6th), innings (174 2/3, T3rd), strikeouts (136, 5th), win percentage (.696, 2nd), opponent BA (.245, 3rd).
His 16 wins are the most by an MLB rookie since Justin Verlander won 17 for Detroit in 2006 and the most by a Cardinals rookie since Dick Hughes won 16 in 1964. His .696 win percentage was also the best by a St. Louis first-year player since Hughes in 1964 (.727, 16-6), while his 3.35 ERA was best by a Cardinals rookie since Shelby Miller (3.06) in 2013.
Hudson’s 174 2/3 innings pitched in 2019 was the most by a St. Louis rookie in the regular season since Rick Ankiel threw 175 innings in 2000. Since ground ball percentage became a recorded stat in 1987, his 57.1 is the 10th-best single-season mark in Cardinals history and highest since 2016 – Jaime García (57.9) and Carlos Martínez (57.7). He delivered 1.0 fWAR in 2019.
This is all even more impressive given Hudson’s shaky start to the season. In his first three starts, he was unable to get through the fifth inning in any of them and had a 6.08 ERA. Had there been a viable alternative at Memphis, Hudson could have been replaced.
Instead, the 25-year old kept pushing, going deeper into games and yielding fewer runs. By his second start in June, Hudson had worked his season ERA down to 3.47 and was fairly consistent the rest of the way, finishing at 3.35.
Gallegos was not called up to St. Louis until into well into the month of April. When all was said and done, the right-hander finished second on the Cardinals with 66 appearances and delivered 1.6 fWAR, tops among Cardinals relievers. The 28-year old pitched more than one inning 25 times.
In a reflection of his manager’s growing confidence in him, Gallegos pitched later and later in games as the season continued. Hand-in-hand, his results improved over time as well. Following the All-Star break, he posted a 1.89 ERA in 31 games (33 1/3 innings), ranking fourth in the National League in the second half.
Here are Gallegos’ National League rankings, not just among rookie relievers, but all relief pitchers: ERA (2.31, 4th), strikeouts (93, 7th), holds (19, T12th), opponent BA (.170, 2nd), opponent OBP (.226, 2nd), opponent SLG (.320, 12th), OPS (.546, 4th), hits/9 IP (5.35, 2nd), baserunners/9 IP (7.66, 1st), strikeout %/BF (33.3%, 9th), WHIP (0.81, 2nd), BB/9 IP (1.95, 6th), strikeouts/walks (5.81, 7th), inherited runners (44, T3rd), inherited runners scored (15.9%, 2nd).
By every measure, it was an impressive year for the former Yankees prospect, acquired along with Chasen Shreve for Luke Voit in July 2018.
Six other rookies on the 2019 Cardinals contributed positive fWAR. They are outfielders Lane Thomas (0.7) and Randy Arozarena (0.2) and pitchers Daniel Ponce de Leon (0.6), Tyler Webb, Ryan Helsley and Genesis Cabrera (0.1 each).
Of the nine players called out here, five are homegrown Cardinals, three were acquired via trade (Gallegos, Thomas and Cabrera) and one was selected off waivers (Webb).
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