While the St. Louis Cardinals have posted a record that leaves something to be desired, there are still some bright spots that have emerged in the first half of the 2016 campaign.
Here’s a look at five players who have helped the Redbirds stay in the 2016 pennant race:
5 – Seung-hwan Oh is a guy with a big-time reputation in Asia. But who knew how success in Korea would translate into the biggest stage in baseball?
I’d hate to think about where the Cardinals would be without Oh’s contributions as a set-up man and later as a closer. He struggled in his first two appearances in the ninth inning. But Oh seems to have settled in, and he’s proved to be a very valuable insurance policy in the wake of Trevor Rosenthal’s meltdown.
4 – Matt Holliday hasn’t been much of a threat to the .300 mark in 2016. But, while he is batting just .241, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been productive.
Holliday has 15 first-half homers and 52 RBI. That’s nearly FOUR TIMES the number of dingers he hit in an injury-riddled 2015 season. Holliday has been hitting into a lot of bad luck lately. Hopefully a few more of his balls in play will find holes in the second half and his production will get even better.
3 – Brandon Moss was a guy whose power seemed to end at the warning track in 2015. But, finally fully healthy, Moss has been driving the ball over the boards like he used to — to the tune of 17 first-half homers.
While Moss has displayed some power previously in his career, his .910 on-base plus slugging percentage is the second-best of his career.
2 – Rule 5 pickup Matt Bowman didn’t seem like he had much chance to make the St. Louis roster after a pretty terrible spring training.
But the Cardinals stuck with him and, somehow, the young right-hander found his groove after the games started to count. He’s got a 0.952 walks and hits to innings pitched ratio and has 23 strikeouts compared to seven walks.
A reasonably well-performing reliever isn’t usually something to write home about. But when the Cardinals are so starved for relief help, Bowman has become one of the few trusted options out of the St. Louis bullpen. While it looked like he’d be sent back to the Mets in March, it now seems like he’s got a long Redbirds career ahead.
1 – Is there any doubt that the biggest surprise is the sudden emergence of shortstop Aledmys Diaz? A Cuban defector signed by the Redbirds when other deep-pocketed bidders like the New York Yankees dismissed him as a glorified utility player, St. Louis could have easily lost Diaz last year when the franchise opted to put him through waivers to remove him from the 40-man roster.
It seemed like a serious blow to St. Louis’ 2016 hopes when starting shortstop Jhonny Peralta tore a thumb ligament in spring training and missed most of the first half recovering after surgery. Despite the apparent opening, Diaz was dismissed early in spring training as general manager John Mozeliak signed New York Mets castoff Ruben Tejada to be the starter.
Tejada found himself injured, and Diaz made his MLB debut. The rest is history. He’s hit .315 with 13 homers and 48 RBI and was the lone Cardinals representative on the National League All-Star Team after Matt Carpenter was lost to injury.