Carlson (ROY), Shildt (MOY) BBWAA finalists

November 9th, 2021

For as star-studded a team the Cardinals boast, it’s actually their more under-the-radar contributors with a chance to take home the most illustrious end-of-year hardware.

Outfielder , coming off an impressive season because of how many gloves he wore and how many different offensive roles he took on in his first full year, is a finalist for the National League Rookie of the Year Award. His former manager, Mike Shildt, who plugged him into such a dynamic cast, has also been recognized as a finalist for the NL Manager of the Year, as announced by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America on Monday evening.

All-time winners: Rookie of the Year | Manager

Carlson is pitted against second baseman Jonathan India of the Reds and left-hander Trevor Rogers of the Marlins, with India -- a Cardinals-killer in his rookie season -- appearing to be the favorite for the award. Rookie of the Year winners will be announced on Nov. 15 at 5 p.m. CT on MLB Network.

Shildt, meanwhile, is up against Gabe Kapler of the Giants and Craig Counsell of the Brewers, with the winner announced on Nov. 16, also at 5 p.m. CT on MLB Network. The manager, dismissed after the Wild Card Game exit due to “philosophical differences” with the front office, was part of a turnaround that brought the Cardinals from the periphery to the postseason on the heels of a franchise-record 17-game win streak. Shildt, who made the postseason in each of his three full seasons as manager, won the award in 2019.

However, players such as Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt and Tyler O’Neill missed out on being named finalists for the NL MVP Award, while Adam Wainwright was not a finalist for the Cy Young. All four could very well see down-ballot votes come their way when those respective awards are unveiled over the next week as well.

But the headliner of the group is Carlson, not just for his upcoming placement on the 2022 squad but for his importance in retrospect as well. In his first 162-game slate at just 22 years old, Carlson proved why he is the club’s former top prospect. He slashed .266/.343/.437 with 18 homers, missing just a handful of games due to a right wrist sprain, while starting multiple games at each batting order position save for cleanup and the pitcher's spot.

When he wasn’t hurt, he was often picking up ailing teammates. Carlson made 78 starts in right field, his most comfortable position, but also 59 in center as Harrison Bader dealt with a pair of lengthy injuries, and eight in left field as O’Neill battled various nicks and bruises.

Carlson made sensational plays in all three spots. In the home opener, he saved what could have been a disastrous opening inning for Wainwright with a remarkable grab with the bases loaded. On July 6, in San Francisco, he made a winding, crashing catch in left to end the game. As part of the 17-game win streak, he put his body on the line to rob Fernando Tatis Jr. of extra bases while crashing into the right-field wall on Sept. 19. Across all three positions, he finished tied for 12th in the Majors with eight assists thanks to an arm that could spot up to 90 mph.

With the bat, too, Carlson impressed. It was a bit of an uneven campaign in that regard, but one that got better as he went. His switch-hitting was an invaluable asset for a club that didn’t possess a bona fide left-handed hitter. Carlson had a pair of multihomer games, the first two of his career, with each long ball coming from opposite sides of the plate. No other rookie has done so multiple times in AL/NL history.

The only thing more enticing than what Carlson has already shown? What he can provide going forward -- starting in 2022.