But Edman soon cemented his place in the lineup, having a hand in more rallies than his .296 on-base percentage suggested during the regular season. Soon, the Cardinals couldn’t sit him. They haven’t since July.
In the postseason, the rookie has started all seven games and came up with a few key hits that helped the Cardinals beat the Braves in Games 4 and 5 of the National League Division Series and send St. Louis into the NL Championship Series against the Nationals.
That makes Edman the latest Cardinals player to have opposing teams and fans asking: Who is this guy?
"[Paul Goldschmidt] said something about from when he was with Arizona, we would just continue to pop out these players that no one has ever heard of and they would get to the big leagues and do really well,” said Cardinals bench coach Ollie Marmol, who was drafted by the Cardinals and has coached in the organization since 2011. “I think it’s a combination of: one, they’re talented, and two, we develop them with a winning championship mentality, that when they get here, they can contribute at this level.”
Edman was a sixth-round Draft pick out of Stanford in 2016. He was only drafted once and wasn’t heavily scouted in high school because it was known he was going to go to college. When the Cardinals did draft him, his 5-foot-10 frame didn’t raise a ton of eyebrows, and he wasn’t a top prospect. What he did have on his side was versatility, both as a switch-hitter and on defense. He played shortstop and second base in college, added third base while in the Minors and added right field when he came to St. Louis.
St. Louis’ scouts saw something in Edman while at Stanford. He had the offensive talent, but he also had the little things the Cardinals love to see in the players they draft, including defense and speed. They also love the analytical side of Edman, who graduated with a mathematical and computational science degree. All of that comes into play when they develop their players.
“The Cardinals make sure their players understand the game that we play up here,” second baseman Kolten Wong said. “Every organization plays baseball differently. This organization prides [itself] on playing the full game, and that’s where guys like Tommy shine as someone who can do it on both sides of the field.”
The Cardinals are known for their player development and their ability to find players like Edman and develop them into Major League-ready players. Take Matt Carpenter, for example, who was a 13th-round Draft pick out of Texas Christian University in 2009. In ‘12, his first full year in the Majors, he played five different positions and slashed .294/.365/.463 in 114 games. In Daniel Descalso’s first full year in the Majors (‘11), he played all around the infield and slashed .264/.334/.353 in 148 games.
“We don't claim to have all the answers by any stretch of the imagination,” said Cardinals manager Mike Shildt, who spent eight seasons managing St. Louis’ Minor League teams. “We have a way we do it, and we have an excellent farm director in Gary LaRocque, our retired field coordinator Mark DeJohn, after 33 years, just a lot of quality instructors and managers and coaches.
“Scouting plays into that, too. They scout guys with character and ability, and we do the very best we can in the development of the player to let him understand how to play the game, how to conduct themselves and how to expect to be a championship-caliber player. But ultimately, the credit goes to the player to be receptive to that. It's their energy, effort and talent that ultimately wins the day.”
Edman’s ability is what got him got called up to the Majors and is what kept him in the lineup every day. The Cardinals’ system just helped that talent flourish, and it’s paid off for both this year.
“I feel like I've been very blessed this year to have these opportunities, especially my first year, just to be able to come to the postseason with such a great group of guys and have the success that we have had so far,” Edman said. “Kind of going to be able to be a little bit spoiled now, now that this has been my first year, kind of expect this every year now. But we know what a special experience this is.”
That’s exactly what the Cardinals want to hear -- that their players expect to be in the postseason. To hear Edman say it as a rookie not only speaks to his own mentality but the way the Cardinals developed him.
“Get used to it,” Marmol said with a smile. “That should be the norm.”