The Cardinal Nation blog

Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Cardinals first-year players and rookies – 1996-2008


In late December in the first article of this series, I broke down the 11 first-year players that debuted with the 2008 St. Louis Cardinals. In the final section, part three, I will look forward to 2009.

Here in part two, I will review past first-year players and rookies each season during the Tony La Russa years. One addition from last time is a designation of whether or not the player exhausted his rookie qualification that season. That separates the cup of coffee guys from those that stuck around long enough to probably contribute.

As a reminder, here are the rookie qualification guidelines: More than 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues, or more than 45 days on the Major League active roster during April-August, excluding time on the disabled list.

Among last year’s rookies, four – Brian Barton, Joe Mather, Kyle McClellan and Chris Perez (pictured) – met one or more of the guidelines.

The table that follows summarizes the first-year player introductions by the Cardinals over the last 13 years. To the left is the total number of first-year players, then with pitchers broken out between those that were up long enough to exhaust their rookie eligibility during their initial season and those that did not, labeled cup of coffee players, or “Cup of java”.

Debuts Met rookie qual Pitchers Met rookie Cup of java Hitters Met rookie Cup of java
2008 11 4 7 2 5 4 2 2
2007 6 2 4 1 3 2 1 1
2006 4 1 3 1 2 1 0 1
2005 6 2 3 1 2 3 1 2
2004 3 2 1 0 1 2 2 0
2003 5 3 4 2 2 1 1 0
2002 6 2 5 2 3 1 0 1
2001 6 2 3 1 2 3 1 2
2000 8 0 5 0 5 3 0 3
1999 4 0 3 0 3 1 0 1
1998 7 1 4 1 3 3 0 3
1997 12 3 6 3 3 6 0 6
1996 5 1 2 0 2 3 1 2
total 83 23 50 14 36 33 9 24
avg 6 2 4 1 3 3 1 2
pct 28% 60% 40%

Here are some associated factoids.

On the average

  • During an average season, six rookies make their Cardinals debuts, 60% of whom are pitchers with position players making up the other 40%.
  • Only two of them stay around long enough that season to exhaust their rookie eligibility, or 28% of the total.
  • The two are made up of one pitcher and one position player, on the average.

Yearly trends

  • In La Russa’s first five years, 1996-2000, only five first-year players in total saw enough time during their initial season to use up their rookie status.
  • In the eight years since, 18 players have met the criteria.
  • In only one year did the number of first-year hitters exceed the new pitchers, 2004.
  • In only two years did the number of hitters that used up their rookie qualification exceed the number of pitchers, 1996 and 2004.

Top year

  • The 11 first-year players in 2008 was second only to 1997.
  • Four of the 11 in 2008 exhausted their rookie qualification as opposed to 1997 when only three of the 11 players did.
  • The 2008 total of four qualifiers is the highest count in the La Russa era.

Now, here’s the player detail by season.

Pitchers Tot Met rookie Cup of java Hitters Tot Met rookie Cup of java
2008 7 Chris Perez Mike Parisi 2008 4 Brian Barton Nick Stavinoha
Kyle McClellan Mark Worrell Joe Mather Rico Washington
Mitchell Boggs
Jaime Garcia
Jason Motte
Pitchers Tot Met rookie Cup of java Hitters Tot Met rookie Cup of java
2007 4 Kelvin Jimenez Dennis Dove 2007 2 Brendan Ryan Brian Esposito
Troy Cate
Andy Cavazos
Pitchers Tot Met rookie Cup of java Hitters Tot Met rookie Cup of java
2006 3 Anthony Reyes Josh Kinney 2006 1 John Nelson
Chris Narveson
Pitchers Tot Met rookie Cup of java Hitters Tot Met rookie Cup of java
2005 3 Brad Thompson Tyler Johnson 2005 3 John Rodriguez John Gall
Adam Wainwright Chris Duncan
Pitchers Tot Met rookie Cup of java Hitters Tot Met rookie Cup of java
2004 1 Carmen Cali 2004 2 Yadier Molina
Hector Luna
Pitchers Tot Met rookie Cup of java Hitters Tot Met rookie Cup of java
2003 4 Dan Haren Jim Journell 2003 1 Bo Hart
Kiko Calero Kevin Ohme
Pitchers Tot Met rookie Cup of java Hitters Tot Met rookie Cup of java
2002 5 Jason Simontacchi Josh Pearce 2002 1 So Taguchi
Mike Crudale Kevin Joseph
Matt Duff
Pitchers Tot Met rookie Cup of java Hitters Tot Met rookie Cup of java
2001 3 Bud Smith Jason Karnuth 2001 3 Albert Pujols Stubby Clapp
Chad Hutchinson Bill Ortega
Pitchers Tot Met rookie Cup of java Hitters Tot Met rookie Cup of java
2000 5 Britt Reames 2000 3 Chris Richard
Justin Brunette Keith McDonald
Jose Rodriguez Luis Saturria
Mike Matthews
Gene Stechschulte
Pitchers Tot Met rookie Cup of java Hitters Tot Met rookie Cup of java
1999 3 Rick Ankiel 1999 1 Adam Kennedy
Rick Heiserman
Curtis King
Pitchers Tot Met rookie Cup of java Hitters Tot Met rookie Cup of java
1998 4 Rich Croushore Jose Jimenez 1998 3 Joe McEwing
Cliff Politte J.D. Drew
Braden Looper Mark Little
Pitchers Tot Met rookie Cup of java Hitters Tot Met rookie Cup of java
1997 6 Manny Aybar Brady Raggio 1997 6 Eli Marrero
Rigo Beltran Sean Lowe Luis Ordaz
Matt Morris Tom McGraw Micah Franklin
Scarborough Green
Mike Gulan
Jeff Berblinger
Pitchers Tot Met rookie Cup of java Hitters Tot Met rookie Cup of java
1996 2 Mike Busby 1996 3 Miguel Mejia Dmitri Young
Eric Ludwick Aaron Holbert


Addendum:
At the suggestion of DizzyDean17 in the comments below, I have broken out the cup of coffee players in the above table into two groups. The names not in bold have not reached 130 major league at bats or 50 innings pitched, so they might be considered true career cup of coffee players – at least so far. In contrast, the names in bold did reach that rookie qualification mark – over a subsequent season or seasons. This adds a career perspective beyond the original single-year view of this article.

Debuts Met rookie qualification in debut year Met rookie qualification later
2008 11 4 TBD
2007 6 2 0
2006 4 1 0
2005 6 2 3
2004 3 2 0
2003 5 3 0
2002 6 2 1
2001 6 2 0
2000 8 0 4
1999 4 0 3
1998 7 1 6
1997 12 3 4
1996 5 1 3
total 83 23 24
avg 6 2 2
pct 28% 29%

This data shows that 56% of the new players eventually earned 50 innings / 130 at-bats as major leaguers. But what I find most interesting is the concentration of players that reached the milestone after their debut year. 20 of the 24 “met rookie qualification later” players came from the first five of the La Russa years, 1996-2000.

Since 2000 however, just four players have accomplished that. The jury is still out on the 2008 cup of coffee pitchers. In other words, they still have a chance to get those necessary innings in 2009 or beyond. Most of the other cuppers from 2007 and earlier are already gone from the organization, so even if they do make it later on, it won’t help the Cardinals. Josh Kinney and Nick Stavinoha remain as 2009 possibilities.

This data seems to add support to a theory that the Cardinals are placing less emphasis on September call-ups of prospects in recent years. At least to me, the recent data seems to show that either the players come up and get significant time pretty quickly or they have their cup of coffee and fade away.

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