The Cardinals have a solid 39-31 record and are tied for first place in the NL Central as they play the Brewers on Wednesday night in Milwaukee.
Question: What would the record – and the team – look like without their rookie players? Well, I don’t think the Cardinals would be 39-31. And I’m 99.9 percent sure they wouldn’t be better than 39-31.
I think it’s accurate to surmise that the Cardinals would be a lot closer to .500 without the vital presence of multi-positional asset Brendan Donovan, second baseman Nolan Gorman, corner outfielder and first baseman Juan Yepez, and pitchers Andre Pallante, Matthew Liberatore and Zack Thompson.
And I know this: so far in 2022 the Cardinals have received more value from rookies than any team in the majors. That’s based on the Baseball Reference version of Wins Above Replace Replacement. (WAR.)
Among position players, Donovan leads all NL rookies, and is third among MLB rookies, with 1.7 WAR. Gorman isn’t far behind with 1.1 WAR. Probably because of his limitations with speed and defense, Yepez has a lower WAR at 0.5 but obviously has made a positive impact on the St. Louis offense.
If you add up the total of the team’s rookie position players – two deductions included, for Kramer Robertson and Ivan Herrera – you come up with 3.1 WAR.
That’s the highest among NL teams and tied for second most in the majors.
What about the pitchers? With 1.5 WAR, Pallante is first among National League rookie pitchers and second in the majors. Thompson, Liberatore and Angel Rondon have combined for 0.5 WAR. After deducting the below-replacement level WAR rates of Packy Naughton and Jake Walsh, the net is 1.7 WAR.
That leads the NL and is tied for second most in the majors.
To recap – and not that you need it …
The Cardinals have the most WAR by rookie position players in the National League, and the most WAR by rookie pitchers in the National League. And they are second in the majors in both categories.
And that’s impressive, and important for another reason. The rival Brewers aren’t receiving anything close from their rookies compared to the rookie-performance value that has enhanced the Cardinals in 2022.
Utility player Mark Mathias has 0.1 WAR for Milwaukee. Several rookie pitchers have collectively added 0.6 WAR.
That means the Cardinal rookies are four wins better than the Brewer rookies, and that’s nothing to wave off as insignificant.
Through the first 70 games of the season, Gorman, Donovan and Yepez generated this for the 2022 Cardinals. I’ve combined their numbers so we can see a composite.
430 plate appearances
60 runs scored
.293 batting average
.374 onbase percentage
.462 slugging percentage
None were part of last season’s 90-win team.
So how’s that for pepping up the offense for 2022?
Let’s take a quick look at each of the three rookie hitters:
Donovan: Among NL rookies with at least 100 plate appearances, Donovan has the highest batting average (.318), highest onbase percentage (.425), highest OPS+ (149), the most doubles (14), the most runs scored (25) and is second in standard OPS (.855) and RBI (22.) Oh, yeah: and he’s played six different positions defensively.
Gorman: Among NL rookies with a minimum 100 PA, Gorman has the best slugging percentage (.516), best standard OPS (.866) and is second in OPS+ (147), tied for second in homers (6), third in onbase percentage (.350), third in batting average (.280), and tied for sixth in RBI (17.)
Yepez: Among NL rookies with 100 or more plate appearances he’s tied for second in homers (6) and RBI (16). He’s third in slugging (.463), OPS (.794) and OPS+ (127.) He’s fourth in batting average (.276), fifth in doubles (7) and sixth in onbase percentage.
If we use OPS+ as our method of measuring offensive performance, the Cardinals have three of the top four rookie hitters in the NL.
Donovan is first at 49 percent above league average, Gorman second at 47 percent above league average, and Yepez and San Francisco’s Luis Gonzalez are third at 27 percent above average.
Pallante has provided double value with his strong work as a reliever and a starter. And as the season rolls on, we can expect to see even more positive results from Zack Thompson, and possibly Liberatore.
Randy Flores and the St. Louis scouts are to be commended for doing such a fantastic job in the drafting and the player development. And there’s more young talent on the way. The Cardinals are set for a promising future, and that’s encouraging.
Thanks for reading …
For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.
While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.
Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.