Here’s my latest season in review for individual members of the 2022 Cardinals. As I’ve mentioned, these reports take time to research and put together, and my goal is to have all of them done by Christmas. I thank you for your patience.

NEXT UP: Brendan Donovan, the super-glue, super-utility asset who turned in one of the most interesting rookie seasons in franchise history.

OVERVIEW: Donovan made a fast rise through the Cards minor-league system, performing very well at three different levels – High A, Double A, and Triple A – in 2021 after the pandemic wiped out the entire minor-league season in 2020. Donovan continued to impress in the 2021 Arizona Fall League and that put him on a faster track to St. Louis. After opening the 2022 season at Triple A Memphis and playing in 16 games, Donovan was promoted to the majors on April 25. He made immediate impact and became one of the most important position players on this team for his patient and highly intelligent at-bats, his plate discipline and advanced onbase skill, and extraordinary versatility on defense.

I’ll get into all of that during this review but for now let’s open with this: since 1900 the Cardinals have had 124 rookies with at least 400 plate appearances in their rookie seasons. And only seven of the 124 had a higher rookie WAR than Donovan’s total in 2022.

Here’s the rookie-WAR leader list, per Baseball Reference and the Stathead search engine:

Albert Pujols, 6.6 WAR in 2001
Lou Klein, 6.5 in 1943
Stan Musial, 5.3 in 1942
Rogers Hornsby, 4.9 in 1916
Johnny Mize, 4.6 in 1936
Bake McBride, 4.3 in 1974
Solly Hemus, 4.2 in 1951
Brendan Donovan, 4.1 in 2022

UNIQUE DEFENSE AND AWARD RECOGNITION: In 2022 Donovan finished third in the NL Rookie of the Year voting and won the first-ever utility player Gold Glove for his ability to move around and play six different positions. Donovan was credited with 10 Defensive Runs Saved overall. He played above-average defense at third base, left field and right field. He was average at first base and second base. And was below-average (barely) with minus 1 runs saved in 56 innings at shortstop.

Donovan’s best spot was third base, with +8 runs saved. The Cardinals didn’t lose much defensively when platinum third baseman Nolan Arenado had a day off or served as the DH, and with Donovan’s quality assistance the Cardinals led the majors with 27 Defensive Runs Saved at third base. Donovan’s effective versatility was an immense benefit for manager Oli Marmol’s moving–parts approach to gain an advantage in matchups.

THE POSITIVES, OFFENSIVELY: There are many. In 126 games and 468 plate appearances “Donny” batted .281 with a .394 onbase percentage, .379 slugging percentage for a .773 OPS. Here are some specific things worthy of highlighting:

1) Donovan’s .394 OBP was the best by a MLB rookie in 2022, and the seventh-highest by a Cards rookie in team history.

2) He had the 14th highest walk rate (12.8%) in the majors, and struck out only 15 percent of the time. His walk-strikeout ratio (0.86) ranked No. 8 in MLB.

3) This lefty hitter put the ball in play to all fields, with 39 hits to left, 37 to center and 33 to right.

4) Donovan’s consistency was pretty remarkable. He had a .395 OBP and .784 OPS before the All-Star break, and a .392 OBP and .758 after the break. During his five full months he never had a monthly OBP worse than .347 and topped a .400 OBP in three of the five months. His park-and-league adjusted runs created (wRC+) was below league average offensively in only one month (July.) In all other months combined, Donovan was 39 percent above league average offensively per wRC+.

5) Donovan bats left, but he was effective against lefty pitchers with a .279 average and .421 OBP for a .749 OPS. He had a .282 average, .389 OBP and .777 OPS vs. righties.

6) Donovan was cool under pressure, leading the Cardinals with a .347 average and .474 OBP with runners in scoring position. And only Albert Pujols had a higher OPS (1.057) than Donovan (.994) with runners in scoring position. And with RISP and two outs, Donovan performed 73 percent above league average offensively based on wRC+.

7) The patient Donovan was tied for 9th among MLB hitters with an average of 4.18 pitches seen per plate appearance (minimum 470 PA.) In plate appearances that lasted four pitches or more, Donovan batted .272 with a .442 OBP and a .816 OPS. The overall big-league OPS on plate appearances that stretched to four-plus pitches in 2022 was .657 … so Donovan was 159 points above average in the long at-bat category. And on extra-long ABs of 7+ pitches Donovan hit .316 with a .594 OBP and .962 OPS. The dude really made pitchers work, and got on base at a high rate, and that helped the cause.

8) Donovan was a headache for pitchers that wanted to strike him out. First of all, he took 62 percent of the pitches that came his way, and was determined to make pitchers throw strikes to gain the advantage. Donovan chased pitches out of the zone only 23 percent of the time. When a pitcher threw ball one on the first pitch of the at-bat, Donovan proceeded to hit .304 with a .451 OBP and .842 OPS. When Donovan worked an at-bat to a three-ball count, he hit .338 with a .659 OBP and 1.228 OPS. He had a disciplined and determined plan, and it worked beautifully. On top of that, When Donovan swung at a pitch, he fouled it off 41 percent of the time. Tough out.

9) Donovan had a good .366 OBP when batting leadoff, but didn’t hit for power or average. He was an exceptional No. 2 hitter, batting .317 with a .399 OBP and .439 slug for a .838 OPS. Donovan was 44 percent above league average offensively as a No. hitter and exactly at league average as a No. 1 hitter.

THE NEGATIVES, OFFENSIVELY: Not to be greedy, but Donovan doesn’t have much power. (You already knew that.) Among the 13 Cardinals that had at least 270 plate appearances last season, Donovan ranked 11th with a .379 slugging percentage and was 12th with five home runs. His Isolated Power number (.097) ranked 156 in the majors among 167 hitters that amassed a minimum 450 plate appearances.

— The issue? More than anything Donovan had the fifth-highest ground-ball rate (52.8) among 167 hitters that had at least 450 plate appearances. He had a .224 batting average on grounders in 2022. Donovan didn’t do much on fly balls, and we can attribute a lot of that to the fact that he ranked in the 25th percentile (that’s pretty bad) in average exit velocity. Donovan needs to reduce that GB rate in 2023.

— I suppose this is good and bad, but Donovan had a massively wide split in his home/road hitting performances last season.

Home: .330 average, 439 OBP, .457 slug, .896 OPS
Road: .236 average, .351 OBP, .305 slug, .657 OPS

— Using wRC+, Donovan was 65 percent above league average offensively on the road, and five percent below league average offensively at Busch. Only eight of his 21 doubles and two of his five home runs were hit on the road.

— Donovan doesn’t have plus speed, and Bill James listed him as a minus three in net baserunning gain. But that’s a bit misleading. Donovan was a lousy base stealer, with a poor 40 percent success rate. But other than that he had good judgment on the bases, taking an extra base on a batted ball in play at a rate of 51 percent – third-best among Cardinal regulars last season.

CONCLUSION: Because Donovan exceeded expectations in such a huge way, emerging as a valuable asset in multiple areas, it would be silly to downgrade his rookie campaign in a significant manner because of his below-average power. This is another easy call for me. Give Donovan an “A” and be happy about it.

The only real downbeat note: the Cardinals didn’t win a postseason game — thus wasting superb performances by future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols, two of the three most valuable players in the National League (Arenado and Goldschmidt) and one of the best rookie seasons in franchise history.

Thanks for reading …


Bernie invites you to listen to his opinionated and analytical sports-talk show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the show podcast at or the 590 app which is available in your preferred app store.

Follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz

All stats used here were sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Stathead, Bill James Online, Fielding Bible, Baseball Savant, Brooks Baseball Net and Spotrac.


Bernie Miklasz
Bernie Miklasz

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.