ST. LOUIS -- While not the favorite for the National League Rookie of the Year Award, Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong certainly built a compelling case for inclusion in the discussion.DeJong is one of the finalists, along with first basemen Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers and Josh Bell of the Pirates,
ST. LOUIS -- While not the favorite for the National League Rookie of the Year Award, Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong certainly built a compelling case for inclusion in the discussion.
DeJong is one of the finalists, along with first basemen Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers and Josh Bell of the Pirates, for the award, which will be presented during an MLB Network special at 5 p.m. CT on Monday. The Cardinals haven't had a player finish as high as second place in the voting since 2001, when Jose Pujols won the honor.
• VOTE NOW: Esurance MLB Awards
DeJong's case for consideration is built not only on the offensive production he provided, but also on the stabilization he gave the Cardinals at a key defensive position. A team receiving underwhelming production at shortstop found its answer in DeJong, who became the first member of the organization's 2015 Draft class to ascend to the Majors when he was called up in late May.
Within a month, he had taken over as the starting shortstop. DeJong never lost the job.
• Complete 2017 Awards coverage
His impact only grew, too, as the Cardinals eventually turned to DeJong in their search for a three-hole hitter. DeJong ended up batting third 51 times, more than any other player on the team.
DeJong's production warranted such a prominent spot in the lineup. He hit the first of his 25 home runs in his first Major League at-bat and became the first rookie to lead the Cardinals in home runs since Pujols. DeJong's 25 homers in his first 108 games ranked second among all rookies in 2017, as did his 52 extra-base hits. Only Bellinger eclipsed DeJong in both categories.
"You take 25 home runs at 24 years old and then add [the] 13 [he hit in Triple-A] to it, that's rare air for a seasoned veteran, let alone a 24-year-old shortstop who is in his second full [professional] season," manager Mike Matheny said. "That goes beyond surprising for me. That goes to amazing. ... The mental toughness of handling that position, hitting third in the order, being so young in the game, I don't know if you could ask any more of a young player than what he did."
Even though DeJong did not make his debut until May 28, he co-led NL rookies in doubles (26), ranked second in slugging percentage (.532), third in total bases (222), fourth in home runs, fourth in RBIs (65), fourth in hits (119), fifth in runs (55) and eighth in game-winning RBIs (5).
DeJong further highlighted his breakout season with some unique individual accomplishments. His eight extra-base hits during a July series against the Mets were the most by a Cardinals player in a three-game set since 1900. He also became the first Cards rookie to tally four extra-base hits in one game since Terry Moore in 1935.
DeJong's string of six straight games with an RBI in late July was the fourth-longest in the NL this season, and DeJong tied for the team lead with 10 three-plus hit games.
In comparing DeJong's final statistics to his fellow finalists, it's worth noting he accrued all these numbers in significantly fewer games (108) than Bell (159) and Bellinger (132).
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.