COMMENTARY | The St. Louis Cardinals will rely heavily on youngsters this season with rookie pitchers Trevor Rosenthal and Shelby Miller expected to fight for a spot in the starting rotation and top prospects Oscar Tavares and Kolten Wong eager to make it to the big leagues for the first time.
It's certainly not the first time the Redbirds have counted on youngsters to contribute in a pennant race.
Here's a look at 10 of the most successful rookie campaigns in Cardinals history:
10) Todd Worrell pitched in 17 games in 1985, winning three of them and notching five saves in 21 2/3 innings of work. He even got 11 innings of work in during the National League Championship Series and World Series that year. But that wasn't enough playing time to spoil his rookie status. In 1986 Worrell won the Rookie of the Year trophy after leading the National League in saves with 36. He allowed 86 hits and struck out 73 in 103 2/3 innings.
9) Vince Coleman hit only .267 in his rookie season with a .320 on-base percentage. But he made the most of his time on the base paths, somehow stealing 110 bags and scoring 107 runs in 220 times on base. He hit his way aboard 170 times walked 50 times in 692 plate appearances to earn 1985 Rookie of the Year honors, and he went on to lead the National League in stolen bases six times in a row.
8) Bake McBride was the first Cardinals player to win Rookie of the Year honors in nearly two decades when he earned the award in 1974. An outfielder, McBride gave St. Louis another serious speed option to compliment Lou Brock. He swiped 30 bags in his first season while tying Reggie Smith for the team lead in batting average at .309.
7) In 1936 Johnny Mize made his major-league debut with a .329 batting average, 19 homers and 30 doubles. He would go on to lead the National League in homers and slugging percentage four times each, home runs and total bases three times and batting average once. Mize's 43 homers in 1940 stood as the team record for round trippers until Mark McGwire broke it in 1998.
6) Willie McGee played in 123 games in 1982 after starting center fielder David Greene was injured. He batted .296 with 12 doubles, eight triples and four homers during the regular season. But he really stood out in the World Series with a pair of home runs, five RBIs and a two stolen bases against Milwaukee. Both of the homers came in Game 3 of the Fall Classic that the Redbirds won 6-2. The cherry on top of one of the greatest individual performances in World Series history came when McGee made a spectacular catch in the ninth inning to rob Gorman Thomas of a home run.
5) Joe Medwick batted .306 with 18 homers, 10 triples, 40 doubles and 98 RBIs in his rookie season in 1933 and gave the power-starved Redbirds a masher in the middle of the batting order. He finished 18th in the NL Most Valuable Player balloting and was the heart of the St. Louis offense by 1934, leading the Cardinals to the World Series.
4) Rogers Hornsby made his major-league debut in 1915 and didn't exactly impress with a .246 batting average, no homers and four runs batted in over 18 games. Manager Miller Huggins told Hornsby he was going to be "farmed out" because he was too skinny. Hornsby took the criticism literally and bulked up by working on an actual farm. In 1916 he returned and hit .313 with 38 extra-base hits, showing the first signs of what would turn out to be a Hall of Fame career.
3) Stan Musial famously hit .426 in 12 games when he was called up during September of 1941. Unfortunately, he didn't have enough time to make a difference in the pennant race and the Redbirds finished in second in the National League, 2 1/2 games behind Brooklyn. In 1942 Musial was able to push the Cardinals over the top with a .315 season in which he had 52 extra-base hits: 32 doubles, 10 triples and 10 homers. Musial walked 62 times and struck out 25 in 536 plate appearances for a .397 on-base percentage. The Cardinals beat the New York Yankees in the 1942 World Series, won the NL pennant in 1943, and then captured the 1944 World Series championship over the St. Louis Browns.
2) Dizzy Dean made his major-league debut at 20 years old during the 1930 season and in his lone start pitched a complete game, allowing only three hits and one run. Somehow his eccentric and sometimes insubordinate behavior outweighed his talent and the Cardinals left Dean in the minors for the entire 1931 campaign. When he finally made it back to the big leagues in 1932, Dean made sure to leave a mark no one could ignore. He won 18 games and led the National League with 191 strikeouts, four shutouts and 286 innings pitched. He had a 3.30 ERA and finished 19th in the NL Most Valuable Player Award balloting.
1) Albert Pujols wasn't supposed to have a chance to make the roster of the 2001 Cardinals. After all, he had played only three games above Class-A ball in his only professional season. But Pujols tore the cover off the ball in spring training, spraying line drives all over Roger Dean Stadium and when veteran slugger Bobby Bonilla was injured in camp, Pujols found a toe hold on the big leagues. He was promoted to St. Louis with a warning that it was only going to be temporary. But, once in the majors, he never stopped hitting. Pujols batted .329 during his rookie season with 37 homers and 130 RBIs and won the Rookie of the Year Award, a Silver Slugger, got an All-Star Game invitation, and finished fourth in the MVP derby.
Scott Wuerz has been a reporter and columnist at the Belleville News-Democrat, located in suburban St. Louis, since 1998. During that time he has covered three St. Louis Cardinals World Series appearances, the 2009 Major League Baseball All-Star game and Mark McGwire's chase to break Roger Maris' home run record. He has penned the View From the Cheap Seats Cardinals fan blog for the News-Democrat since 2007.