The St. Louis Cardinals have a knack for finding talent where nobody would expect to. They proved that time and time again during their playoff stretch from 2011-15, where they would have no-name talents come up and beat on the big guys.
It seems to be the case once again that the Cardinals have found a surprise talent in Paul DeJong. While it may not be a surprise to some, as he was the runner-up in Rookie of the Year voting in 2017, it is still strange to see a shortstop with the kind of power he does.
Off to a hot start
We all need to keep in mind that we are only five games into the 2018 season. That being said, DeJong has gotten off to a fast start by hitting .444 and knocking three balls out of the park already. He is quickly proving the Cardinals were smart for signing him to a very good extension at $26 million over the next six years.
St. Louis has faith that they have found their shortstop of the future, a position that has yet to be solidified since the departure of Ozzie Smith, who is one of the best to ever play the position. Ironically, DeJong was not drafted as a shortstop. He was originally drafted in the fourth round of the 2015 MLB draft and did not have a solid position.
DeJong won’t make the acrobatic play that you might see at the shortstop position. However, he has become a reliable glove with a strong arm that really provides some stability to the infield.
DeJong has begun to separate himself as one of the best power-hitting middle infielders in baseball. Last year in the majors, he was able to hit 25 home runs. That does not seem like a lot with the amount of home runs that were hit last year. However, DeJong did not start to see consistent playing time until late June.
Before he started seeing consistent playing time, DeJong also hit 13 home runs at Triple-A. With three home runs already this year, he certainly has the makings of a guy who could hit 40 home runs in 2018.
The Cardinals have been missing the superstar bat in the lineup since Albert Pujols has left. There have been many great players to come through, but St. Louis is still missing that piece. Maybe DeJong is what the Cardinals are looking for.
Marcell Ozuna is certainly supposed to help with the big bat in the middle of the lineup, and that is what he is there to do. DeJong is currently batting behind Yadier Molina at the seven spot though. Before you know it, he may be backing up Ozuna.
Questions about discipline
The downfall in DeJong’s game is similar to many at his point in his career. He is not able to draw as many walks as he should and strikes out a fair amount. The Cardinals shortstop actually only walks in five percent of his at bats, and strikes out in close to 30 percent of them.
Those are not the strikeout to walk numbers you want to see in a long-term major league ball player. However, the Cardinals made some great moves in the offseason in regards to their coaching staff. Jose Oquendo returned to St. Louis, and former NL MVP, Willie McGee, is now an assistant coach with the team. Their expertise certainly will come into play with the 24-year-old shortstop.
What is in store for 2018
At this rate, DeJong looks like he could have a breakout year and solidify himself as a force to be reckoned with. He has a solid lineup around him that should give him some protection, and the Cardinals certainly will continue to give him opportunities to succeed.
While DeJong may not make the All-Star game this year as a starter, it is not out of the realm of possibility for him to make it as a reserve. What should definitely be watched for is the Silver Slugger at the shortstop position. More likely than not, you will either see Corey Seager or Paul DeJong receiving that award in the end.
Home runs may not be as valuable as they once were with the newest surge in power. However, DeJong’s power certainly will provide pop in the bottom of the Cardinals’ lineup, which could keep them in contention for the crown in the NL Central.
Featured image from USA Today
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