Donovan 3rd for ROY after historic year: 'An honor and a blessing'

November 15th, 2022

As expected, Cardinals Gold Glover finished a distant third in the race for the NL Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award on Monday. However, the fact that Donovan was even a finalist was a victory considering the climb made by the under-the-radar prospect to become a history-making standout for the Cardinals.

Donovan, the 213th player selected in the 2018 MLB Draft, out of the University of South Alabama, played well for the Cardinals in Spring Training in March but didn't make the Opening Day roster.

The 25-year-old got his MLB callup on April 25, and he played well enough to stick with the Cardinals. Not only did Donovan make some modern MLB history in his first week by making his first four starts at each of the four infield positions, but he also used his defensive versatility to become the first rookie in the rich history of the Cardinals to win a Gold Glove.

Atlanta’s Michael Harris II, who led NL rookies in hits (123), extra-base hits (49) and RBIs (64) and tied for first in home runs (19), captured the NL Rookie of the Year Award. He was closely followed by teammate Spencer Strider, who set a new NL/AL record for rookies with 13.9 strikeouts per nine innings. As for Donovan, he finished third by getting 22 third-place votes in the Baseball Writers’ Association of America balloting, good for 22 points. Harris II (22 first-place votes) had 134 points, while Strider (eight first-place votes) notched 103 points.

Humble and usually unwilling to savor much of the singular spotlight shined upon him this season, Donovan said he already has his focus on next season and becoming an even better player for the Cardinals.

“This first season definitely highlighted some of the things that I want to clean up this offseason,” Donovan said. “I kind of looked at it as a lot of firsts for me and lasts for some of my teammates [retiring stars and ], and that’s crazy for me to think about.

“I saw some things this year that will never happen again in the game of baseball. To do this as a rookie, it was an honor and a blessing. I’m truly excited for what the future has to hold.”

Rising Seattle star Julio Rodríguez was the runaway winner of the AL Rookie of the Year Award. Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman and Guardians standout Steven Kwan finished second and third, respectively.

Donovan became just third rookie since 1900 to play at least six games at six defensive positions, per Elias Sports. Donovan played 854 1/3 MLB innings across six positions and committed just seven errors. That earned him the first Rawlings NL Utility Gold Glove and made him the only Cardinals rookie to nab a top defensive honor.

Donovan said the best advice he got during the season came from teammate , a 10-time Gold Glove winner at third base and a Platinum Glove winner again in 2022.

“We’re taking ground balls and I was like, ‘Hey, man, what do you think I can do to get better?’” Donovan recalled. “He said, ‘Treat these ground balls just like a game. Picture yourself at third base and seeing the pitch coming in and then see the ball coming off the bat.’ He said, ‘You do that and then when you get into a game, nothing has changed and it’s like you have always practiced.’ Get enough game-like reps like that, and you’ll improve.”

Donovan’s defensive excellence carried over to the plate, where he showed tremendous patience and maturity as a hitter. He led NL rookies in walks (60) and on-base percentage (.394), while ranking second in hits (110) and runs (64). His biggest moment of the season came when he smashed a go-ahead grand slam to help the Cardinals end a three-game losing streak and beat the Padres. Four nights later, the Cardinals clinched the NL Central crown.

“This is going to sound crazy because I just won a Gold Glove, but I want to improve defensively,” Donovan said. “Offensively, I have to continue to smooth things out -- whether that’s approach or hitting breaking stuff better.”

Additional BBWAA award winners for each league will be announced over the next three days at 6 p.m. ET/5 p.m. CT on MLB Network. The Managers of the Year will be revealed on Tuesday, followed by the Cy Young Award winners on Wednesday and the MVPs on Thursday. Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and teammate Arenado are among the three finalists for NL MVP.