TCN’s 2019 St. Louis Cardinals Rookie of the Year

photo: Tommy Edman (Jon Durr/Imagn)

The 2019 St. Louis Cardinals clearly benefited from the fruits of their farm system, including bringing up eight players who made their MLB debuts and deploying 13 rookies overall. Of the eight first-timers, five were homegrown Cardinals, two were acquired via trade and one was a free agent signing.

Selecting the top first-year player from among these ranks was relatively straight forward, as three especially stood out. A view of the numbers confirmed the top rookie.

Among pitchers, Dakota Hudson rebounded from a shaky start to hold down a rotation spot all season long and win a team-best 16 games. Giovanny Gallegos opened the season with Memphis, but quickly became a trusted member of the St. Louis relief corps.

The rate and pace at which Tommy Edman became a lineup sparkplug after his June promotion surprised us all. For his consistency and strong results, the infielder is our choice as the 2019 St. Louis Cardinals Rookie of the Year.

We will review 2019 highlights of the three finalists, with our winner last.

Dakota Hudson

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).

Dakota Hudson

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 Cardinals rookie since Hughes in 1964 (.727, 16-6), while his 3.35 ERA was best by 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).

Giovanny Gallegos

As noted above, Gallegos did not stick with 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. He pitched more than one inning 25 times and as the season continued, pitched later and later in games.

Gallegos’ 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.

Giovanny Gallegos

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).

In other words, it was an impressive year for the former Yankees prospect.

Tommy Edman

Edman was promoted to St. Louis on June 8 and over the rest of the season, he became a very important offensive performer. 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).

Tommy Edman

The former Stanford star was a versatile defender, starting 41 games at third base, 23 at second base and even 11 in right field. Notable was 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).

I will close with this – Edman’s seven triples tied for fourth among all National League players in 2019 – rookies or not. Full season or not.

It was an all-around impressive season by TCN’s 2019 Rookie of the Year – accomplished in just four months.

(Thanks to Cardinals media relations for the rankings in the above three player capsules.)

The data

Here are some of the key stats of our three finalists.

Rookie hitters – 2019 Debut G PA HR SB AVG OBP SLG OPS
Tommy Edman 6/8 92 349 11 15 0.304 0.350 0.500 0.850
Rookie hitters – 2019 BB% K% BABIP wOBA wRC+ fWAR
Tommy Edman 4.6% 17.5% 0.346 0.357 123 3.2

Readers may recall Tommy Pham’s standout .300/.400/.500 season. Well, this Tommy, Edman, matched two-thirds of that in his rookie campaign. His .500 slugging may have been the biggest surprise, with his .350 on-base mark an area for potential improvement, driven by a walk rate that was under five percent, the lowest in his rookie class.

Edman’s double-digit totals in both home runs and stolen bases really stand out, as does his rookie-best 3.2 Wins Above Replacement (per Fangraphs). That was double Gallegos’ 1.6 fWAR contribution and over three-times that of Hudson (1.0), making this a relatively easy call.

Rookie pitchers – 2019 Debut W L SV G GS IP ERA
Giovanny Gallegos 5/12/17 (NYY) 3 2 1 66 0 74 2.31
Dakota Hudson 7/28/18 16 7 1 33 32 174 3.35
Rookie pitchers – 2019 K/9 BB/9 GB% ERA FIP fWAR
Giovanny Gallegos 11.3 2.0 33.5% 2.31 3.05 1.6
Dakota Hudson 7.0 4.4 56.9% 3.35 4.93 1.0

Hudson’s clear edge is in generating ground balls. Gallegos’ logged much superior strikeout and walk rates. Further, the gap between the reliever’s ERA and his Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) was smaller.

Other Cardinals rookies

A number of other rookies contributed to the 2019 Cardinals, specifically the following 10 – five position players and five pitchers.

Here are their comparable numbers, starting with the hitters. All are listed in descending fWAR sequence.

Rookie hitters – 2019 Debut G PA HR SB AVG OBP SLG OPS
Lane Thomas 4/17 34 44 4 1 0.316 0.409 0.684 1.093
Randy Arozarena 8/14 19 23 1 2 0.300 0.391 0.500 0.891
Edmundo Sosa 9/23/18 8 10 0 1 0.250 0.400 0.250 0.650
Rangel Ravelo 6/17 29 43 2 0 0.205 0.256 0.410 0.666
Andrew Knizner 6/2 18 58 2 2 0.226 0.293 0.377 0.670
Rookie hitters – 2019 BB% K% BABIP wOBA wRC+ fWAR
Lane Thomas 9.1% 18.2% 0.308 0.445 181 0.7
Randy Arozarena 8.7% 17.4% 0.333 0.380 138 0.2
Edmundo Sosa 10.0% 20.0% 0.333 0.315 95 0
Rangel Ravelo 7.0% 27.9% 0.231 0.276 70 -0.1
Andrew Knizner 6.9% 24.1% 0.270 0.289 78 -0.2

All totaled, these five hitters did not have as many plate appearances as Edman, so any counting stat comparison is useless. However, it is clear that in their limited action, first-year outfielders Lane Thomas and Randy Arozarena both excelled.

Arozarena just missed that high .300/.400/.500 bar and delivered a 138 weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+), with 100 being MLB average. Thomas was even better, especially in the power department, approaching .300/.400/.700, bringing home 0.7 fWAR and a very strong wRC+ of 181.

Both of the outfielders’ wRC+ counts exceeded Edman’s 123, but again, the two in played far fewer games. An ability for all three to sustain those rates over the longer haul has yet to be proven, and honestly, seems unlikely.

Rookie pitchers – 2019 Debut W L SV G GS IP ERA
Daniel Ponce de Leon 7/23/18 1 2 0 13 8 48.2 3.70
Tyler Webb 6/24/17 (NYY) 2 1 1 65 0 55 3.76
Ryan Helsley 4/16 2 0 0 24 0 36.2 2.95
Genesis Cabrera 5/29 0 2 1 13 2 20.1 4.87
Junior Fernandez 8/11 0 1 0 13 0 11.2 5.40
Rookie pitchers – 2019 K/9 BB/9 GB% ERA FIP fWAR
Daniel Ponce de Leon 9.6 4.8 45.1% 3.70 4.41 0.6
Tyler Webb 7.9 3.8 41.1% 3.76 4.49 0.1
Ryan Helsley 7.9 3.0 33.6% 2.95 4.22 0.1
Genesis Cabrera 8.4 4.9 36.4% 4.87 4.54 0.1
Junior Fernandez 12.3 4.6 50.0% 5.40 5.27 -0.1

From among the other rookie pitchers, Daniel Ponce de Leon’s 0.6 fWAR was clearly tops, but his walk rate approaching five per nine innings stands out for the wrong reason. While Genesis Cabrera’s free pass rate was slightly worse, and Junior Fernandez’ was only barely better, the pair are each five years younger than Ponce de Leon.

Fernandez struck out opposing batters at the highest rate – and it was not close – but he also posted the highest ERA and FIP.

This article might have passed without mention of Tyler Webb, but he deserves a nod for stabilizing the second left-hander role in the bullpen in 2019.

Prior year winners

Our honorees over the last six years follow.

St. Louis
TCN Rookie of the Year
2019 Tommy Edman
2018 Harrison Bader
2017 Paul DeJong
2016 Aledmys Diaz
2015 Randal Grichuk
2014 Kolten Wong

These winners are also permanently recorded under “SEASON RECAPS/TOP PLAYERS,” located on the left red menu bar here at The Cardinal Nation.

For more

Link to master article with all 2019 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series. Next up is our St. Louis Relief Pitcher of the Year.

The Cardinal Nation’s Team Recaps and Top Players of 2019

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