Even though short of their postseason goal of being a Wild Card team, the St. Louis Cardinals had some great games. Just not enough this season to see the playoffs. However, throughout the season, five players made notable accomplishments; and, are being recognized for their skill, effort, performance and ability that made them standout in the Cardinals 2016 season.
Pinstripes worn by the Cardinals honoring the 1926 World Series Pennant winners.
2016 ST. CARDINALS TEAM AWARD GOES TO:
MVP: Yadier Molina
Cardinals MVP Yadier Molina, not only a force as backstop, but recorded his best season since 2013.
No surprise here. Yadier Molina. Cardinals field general, manager and director. The one who keeps an eagle eye on the infield as backstop. He returned to Spring training rehabbing after a two-time surgically repair thumb, and worked his way back into being the everyday catcher. Molina dealt with his injury in the 2015 season, but had to give way to the fact, repair was necessary. Prior to spring camp, Cardinals signed veteran catcher Brayan Pena as backup for Molina to give him extra days off in the upcoming season. As fate would have it, Pena went the DL and saw very few games his first season with the Cardinals. Molina caughthis career high innings in 2016 with 1218.1 in 146 games. At the plate. During the first half, he only punched out a .259 BA. However, in the second half of the season, he became a force with a .365/.398/.529/.927 slash line. For the season, 8 HR/58 RBI/38-2B/1-3B with 164 hits. The 34 year old Molina has been with the Cardinals 13 seasons, a seven time All Star, has eight consecutive Golden Glove Awards; and, has been a four time contender for the MLB MVP thus far in career. For the Cardinals fans, Molina will always be St. Louis Cardinals MVP.
CY YOUNG AWARD: RHP Carlos Martinez
Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez 16-9/3.04 ERA in 2016
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Carlos Martinez. The Cardinals architect of cup pyramids, the master of baptismal celebrations honoring home runs by his teammates. Even though a jovial teammate in the dugout, he was the Cardinals backbone starter in the 2016 season. For the Cardinals rotation in 2016, command and control was not plentiful. However, Martinez was solid, and surpassed his 2015 season total closing 2016 with 195.1 IP. In 2015, his season was shortened due to shoulder stress late in September, which may have a bit to do with this additional 15.2 IP in 2016 being injury free. The probability of Martinez reaching 200 innings next season is in the making. He did outstanding for the Cardinals in 2016. And, in my opinion, his biggest competitor come Spring training in 2017, one young pitcher Alex Reyes. We will monitor, later in coming Spring, Cardinals 1-2 punch to their rotation.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Aledmys Diaz
Cardinals rookie shortstop Aledmys Diaz, on track for MLB RoY, when injury (HBP) placed him on the DL.
Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports
Young, Cuban native, Aledmys Diaz a rough start once he bravely defected from his homeland and reached the United States. The Cardinals had signed the young amateur free agent in 2014. He was designated for assignment in 2015; which fortunately, the Diaz-Cardinals union was meant to be as no other team claimed him off waivers. Not much promise was shown by the prospect during this year's Spring training. However, a door opened for young Diaz; unfortunate circumstances due to injuries opportunity knocked. Cardinals everyday shortstop Jhonny Peralta was placed on the DL due to a thumb injury in ST which required surgery. Newly signed 2B/SS Ruben Tajada to cover for Peralta, sustained a quad injury the last game of Spring training. Therefore, the Cardinals decided, let's give the kid a chance. And, what a encouraging move this was for both the Cardinals and for Diaz. For his first half of the season, he had worked his way onto the MLB Rookie of Year list of contenders with his .312 BA/.518 SLG/17 HR/57 RBI and on track to seeing 30+ HR/100+ RBI by season end. On the fateful day, August 2, he was taken down (HBP) with a thumb fracture. He did not return until, September 12; and, he was an essential part of the Cardinals final stretch in hopes of seeing postseason play. He closed the season, .300/.369/.510/17 HR/65 RBI. For 2016, Diaz was chosen over closer Seung Hwan Oh, which Oh would have been deserving; but, happy the Cy Young was awarded to Aledmys Diaz.
RELIEVER OF THE YEAR: Seung Hwan Oh
Cardinals closer Seung Hwan Oh replaced Trevor Rosenthal for the final inning duty.
Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports
Cardinals reliever Seung Hwan Oh, 34 year old Korean native of the international league. He was reliever/closer both for the Korean league and the Japan league. He was signed at the end of 2016 Spring training, making his way to the States to workout for approximately the last two weeks of camp. He was brought on board as a set-up man to closer Trevor Rosenthal. Rosenthal experiencing his own struggles on the mound, was placed on the the DL due to shoulder/forearm stress July 24. The announcement was made, Oh would replace him as Cardinals closer for the remainder of the second half of the season. He held lefty hitters to a .173 BA; and, coming from the right didn't fair much better with only a .201 BA. Even though many Cardinals fans experienced "Rosie Drama" during his 2.5 seasons a Cardinals closer, Oh did provide some of his own. However, the "Final Boss" Oh, closed the season with an on base percentage of 80.9 %. He pitched a total of 79.2 innings, 1.92 ERA with 103 strikeouts. He did earn his way to the Closer of the Year. Even though only signed for one season, $2.5 MM/2016. I expect to see him back with the Cardinals in Spring training 2017.
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER: Jedd Gyorko
Cardinals IF Jedd Gyorko, trade with San Diego Padres, sending CF Jon Jay out West,
Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports
Cardinals IF Jedd Gyorko, acquired via a trade in the 2015-2016 off-season. With the Cardinals log jam of outfielders, CF Jon Jay was sent West to the San Diego Padres; and, Gyorko came to the city by the Great Mississippi. He was brought on board as back-up for 2B Kolten Wong; and, if needed, to give SS Diaz some days off. With Wong being sent down to Memphis to "refine" his bat for a very short stay, Gyorko began his trek to his best season to date for the 28 year old. He smashed out 30 HR for a career high topping the Cardinals home run list over teammate and pal, Brandon Moss who had 28 HR. His RBI total was pretty close to his individual past three seasons with the Padres, just four shy of his rookie season in 2013, with 59 RBI on 97 hits with adding 58 runs. Gyorko is second to Albert Pujols' 2011 season with 30 or more home runs. Against his former team, he had 6 HR/11 RBI in the seven games played. Not that those numbers were the deciding factor, just sweetened the pot. So, a great breakout season for Cardinals' Gyorko, which earned him the Most Improved Player of 2016. Very much deserved.
Congratulations to Yadier Molina, Carlos Martinez, Aledmys Diaz, Seung Hwan Oh and Jedd Gyorko as recipients of the 2016 Cardinals Awards. Justly deserved and, now, to prepare for an even better 2017.