What happened. St. Louis Cardinals’ shortstop Paul DeJong has been named a finalist for the National League Rookie of the Year Award.
The story. A fourth round pick out of the 2015 MLB Draft as a Senior from Illinois State University, Paul DeJong, 24, made his MLB debut on May 28th by taking the second pitch he saw from Rockies closer Greg Holland deep for a pinch hit home run. He would fill in for the injured Kolten Wong initially, but a month after his debut, DeJong successfully pushed last season’s rookie standout Aledmys Diaz out of the starting job at shortstop.
The numbers. After that pinch hit home run in his debut, DeJong would hit 24 more big league homers in 2017 to finish the season with 25 home runs. His final slash line would be a very respectable .285/.325/.552 with 25 home runs.
He led the team in home runs, becoming the first Cardinals’ rookie to do that since Albert Pujols in 2001. He also led the team in slugging percentage. His 26 doubles led National League rookies.
Slugging is something he did well. Between Triple-A Memphis and St. Louis, he hit a total of 38 home runs in 2017.
The impact. 1/10. It’s hard to give this much impact seeing as it’s a solo award and Cody Bellinger is the favorite to win it, but it is a nice feather in DeJong’s cap. He becomes the first Cardinals player to be in the top-3 since Kolten Wong was in 2014.
DeJong’s next step will be finding a way to avoid a sophomore slump like the guy he replaced at shortstop. In 2016 Aledmys Diaz broke onto the scene hitting .300/.369/.510 with 17 home runs for the big league club, but stumbled this season, hitting just .259/.290/.392 and received a mid-season demotion to Memphis.
On the plus side, DeJong plays better defense than Diaz did.