When Tommy Edman got ready to go to spring training, he had to make sure he packed well, especially when it came to the number of gloves the Stanford graduate needed.
“I got one for middle infield, so I use the same one for second and short,” Edman said. “I have one for third base, and one for the outfield.”
He might add one for first base. And, if last year is an indication, he’ll need them all.
Edman, 24, slashed a .333/.392/.511 line in 51 spring training plate appearances in 2019. After he was summoned to the Cardinals last June, he showed he’s more valuable than a Swiss Army knife. He appeared at nearly every position in the field but shortstop. He played second and third base. For good measure, Manager Mike Shildt plugged him into all three outfield spots at various times.
“You just look up and he gets things done,” Shildt said. “He does the little things. A nice, solid player. He just helps you win games. He’s a baseball player.”
Edman, a switch-hitter, spent 97 games with the Cardinals in his rookie season. He started 75 of them – at four different positions. He played six different positions total, logging leftover innings in center [one] and left [four] during the regular season.
Edman expects his fate to be similar this season.
“I’m going to be ready to play all over the infield, maybe get a little outfield work in as well,” Edman said. “I’ll play anywhere as long as I’m contributing in some way and continuing to build up that versatility.”
Edman played five positions in 2019 and that number will likely rise to six this season. Shildt has indicated the Cardinals will try to find an occasional day off for Paul DeJong at shortstop. DeJong started a whopping 156 games last season. That’s fine for Edman.
“I’ll just be prepared for pretty much anything,” Edman said. “I’m sure I’ll be playing pretty much everywhere on the field, hitting everywhere in the lineup, and it will obviously change day-to-day, based on the needs. I think that’s one of the main sources of value for the team – my versatility and my ability to fill in wherever.”
General Manager Michael Girsch likes what Edman can do for the ballclub.
“The best thing for our organization would be if he bounced around and played a lot of different positions,” Grisch said. “Because that would suggest that all the guys that are penciled in to play those positions are doing well.”
One of the new statistics that is used is WAR, which stands for wins above replacement. It is a non-standardized sabermetric baseball statistic developed to sum up a player’s total contributions to his team.
Edman’s number last season was 3.8. He ranked fourth on the Cardinals behind Jack Flaherty, Kolten Wong and DeJong. It’s a stat Edman likes.
“It combines all aspects of the game,” he said. “Combines hitting, baserunning and defense. I think that’s one of the things that makes me so valuable as a player – to have the ability to impact the game in a variety of ways. WAR does a good job of including all aspects, kind of sums up the overall value.”
That overall value is something Cardinals fans appreciate. Not surprisingly, they have taken to Edman and are solidly in his corner.
Edman said fan appreciation is something to treasure.
“I kind of saw it a little bit at the Winter Warm-up seeing how many people came up to ask for my autograph,” Edman said. “To hear what they were saying was very cool and it was a little sneak peek into how I’m perceived by the fans. I got to go on the caravan last year, and … not really many people knew who I was. Now I’m seeing people wearing these Edman shirts. It’s a pretty cool feeling seeing that many jerseys and shirts with my name on it.
“I just try to play the game in a way that fans appreciate, show that I’m hustling and not taking any plays off. I’m sure that’s part of the reason why I guess the fans are attracted to my style of play.”