The St. Louis Cardinals seem to have a way with unheralded prospects. Every season, it seems like the team churns out yet another productive youngster who seemingly emerges from no where. If Sunday is any indication, Paul DeJong might be this year’s find.
DeJong had quite the major-league debut Sunday against the Colorado Rockies. He didn’t start the game, but he got an opportunity to pick up his first plate appearance against closer Greg Holland. That’s no easy task for a 10-year veteran, let along a rookie.
But the 23-year-old DeJong made it look like he’d been there before. On the 1-0 pitch, DeJong belted a 92 mph fastball out to left for a solo home run. With the hit, he became the 118th player to accomplish the feat. He’s the first since New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge, who made it happen last August.
DeJong doesn’t have the same upside based on his minor-league numbers, but that might not matter to the Cardinals. The franchise has done an exceptional job churning out questionable prospects and turning them into above-average major leaguers.
Of the team’s regulars Matt Carpenter might be the best example of that phenomenon. Carpenter was never listed among Baseball America’s top-100 prospects while in the minors, but developed into one of the game’s better hitters once he reached the majors. Aledmys Diaz hasn’t reached that level yet, but has made the All-Star team in 2016 after never making a top-100 list.
While neither Randal Grichuk nor Stephen Piscotty have performed well this season, both of them have exceeded expectations throughout their careers. Grichuk was never listed on the top-100 list. Piscotty peaked at 70 in 2014.
They also seem to have a way with other young players discarded from other organizations. How else can you explain Jedd Gyorko developing into a 30 home run hitter his first year with the club?
DeJong has a long way to go before he even gets close to the players mentioned above, but it’s tough to start a career much better than this. The hit didn’t matter much in the long run, as the Cardinals lost 8-4, but DeJong will take it anyway.
Now that this one is out of the way, DeJong can focus on the next big accomplishment … like making his first career start.
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