Players can make an impact on a team even if it’s over a short period. They can have such an impact that fans remember them to this day. I wanted to focus on a few players that had one great season with St. Louis and then either faded into obscruity or moved on to other organizations. I wanted to focus on players from my time frame so you won’t see any part timers from the 70’s or 80’s. This list is focused on the 90’s to today. If I missed any please let me know.
5.Bo Hart, 2003
Bo Hart has a major league baseball record. Through his first 15 games in 2003 Hart had 28 hits, breaking Irv Waldons record set in 1901. Hart was an instant sensation for a fanbase that loves the underdog. Hart was a 26 year old, 33rd round pick that should have never gotten the chance to play. He wasn’t even hitting well in the minors with a slash line of .249/.338/.351. An injury to Miguel Cairo left the Cardinals with no other options but to call Hart up and give him a chance. His great start captured the attention of the fans and the local media. Hart didn’t do much after his torrid start to his career, falling back down to earth the rest of 2003. After being a fan favorite during the 2003 season Hart was unable to make another impact playing only 11 games in 2004.
Bo was only a part of Cardinals History for a short period but to fans of that time his name will always bring back great memories.
4.Craig Paquette, 2001
Most of us will not remember Craig Paquette. He actually spent three seasons with the Cardinals but his 2001 season was the best of his career .282/.326/.465 in 134 games. Paquette was picked up from the New York Mets for veteran Shawon Dunston in 1999. Having previously played for manager Tony LaRussa there was a familiarity with Paquette. Paquette’s one season of legitimacy in 2001 netted him a nice contract from the Detroit Tigers worth about five million dollars. While Paquette technically is cheated on this list as he did play multiple seasons in a Cardinal uniform it was really only the one year in 2001 that he made any sort of impact. Also he coordinates with a guy that just missed my list Shawon Dunston.
3.Mark Grudzielanek, 2005
The Cardinals signed Mark Grudzielanek in 2005 to fill in for Tony Womak who had departed for free agency. Grudzielanek quietly put together a great season for the defending national league champs. The former All-Star put together his second best WAR season in his career (2.8). His second half helped propel the 100 win Cardinals into the playoffs. His 110 WRC+ was forty points higher than the first half of the season. He was also a home favorite hitting .322 at Busch Stadium.
The 2005 Cardinals are a forgotten team after losing to division rival Houston in an excting six game series. Grudzielanek was a stable piece in the middle of the field. After his departure St. Louis would have trouble filling the position until 2014 when Kolten Wong became a full time starter.
2.Jason Heyward, 2015
Jason Heyward was a rising star in the league. Heyward entered the majors in 2010 at just 20 years old making an immediate impact for the Atlanta Braves. He finished second in the league for the rookie of the year award, earning his first and only all-star appearance. The Braves moved Heyward in the 2014 offseason, sending him to St. Louis for pitchers Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins.
Heyward had arguably the second most productive season of his career after a slow start he ended up with a OPS of .797 while adding his second gold glove. Heyward’s 5.6 WAR was the highest of his career. He became a big part down the stretch for a Cardinals team that was clinging to a playoff spot. Heyward had an outstanding 141 WRC+ in the second half of the season. Without him the Cardinals would not have made the postseason let alone competed against the revitalized Chicago Cubs.
Heyward will most be remembered for not resigning in the offseason but to ignore his play while in a Cardinal uniform is downright stupid.
1.Kent Bottenfield, 1999
Chubby Kent Bottenfield makes my list even though he technically played two seasons with the Cardinals. Bottenfield spent the 1998 season mainly out of the bullpen pitching in 44 games, starting 17. He established himself down the stretch in 98’ enough for Manager Tony LaRussa to give him a shot at the rotation heading into the 1999 season. Bottenfield excelled in the rotation having a career year with 18 wins and a 3.97 ERA, leading to his first and only All-Star appearance. Surprising numbers from a relative unknown that was only averaging 5.4 K/9.
The Cardinals cashed in on Bottenfield big season moving him to the Anaheim Angels in 2000 for an outfielder that would have a bit longer and more storied Cardinals career. A man by the name of Jim Edmonds.
Honorable Mention: Bud Smith (2001), Octavio Dotel (2011)