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Hochman: As DeJong and Sosa vie to start in wild card game, Cards' 2022 shortstop could be Dodgers' Seager

Hochman: As DeJong and Sosa vie to start in wild card game, Cards' 2022 shortstop could be Dodgers' Seager

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Cubs edge Cardinals 3-2 in rain-shortened finale

St. Louis Cardinals' Edmundo Sosa, left, is out at first as Chicago Cubs first baseman Frank Schwindel handles the throw during the second inning of a baseball game Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

In today’s 10 a.m. video, columnist Ben Hochman gets ready for the Cards’ wild card game by dissecting the defense, including possible Gold Glove winners Tyler O’Neill, Harrison Bader and Paul Goldschmidt. And, as always, Hochman chooses a random St. Louis Cards card from the hat!

The Cardinals’ 2022 shortstop will likely be in Wednesday’s wild card game — but with the Cards or Dodgers?

I’m eager to see Corey Seager in red — he should be the Cardinals’ offseason target. The Dodgers’ shortstop and reigning World Series MVP is a lefthanded-hitting slugger, and the Cardinals could sure use a lefthanded-hitting slugger.

Seager will be a free agent this winter, and though the Cards normally collect National League West superstar infielders via trades, Seager should fit into their budget, in part due to those often-discussed contracts coming off the books. And, frankly, if there was a player to splurge on, it would be a 27-year-old whose 2021 batting average (.306) and OPS (.915) are even better than his impressive career batting average (.297) and OPS (.870).

Of course, the Cardinals wouldn’t even be in this wild card game if it wasn’t for shortstop Edmundo Sosa. From Aug. 1 until season’s end, Sosa hit .307 with an .860 OPS. The man they call “Mundito” has been an infusion of untapped talent and energy. As a starter in 75 total games, his OPS was .795.

“We’ve seen him evolve,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “But he’s been in the organization for a while, so we’ve seen him grow, and so it’s been a gradual understanding of what he can do. I’ll say the one thing (that surprised me) is the opposite-field power. He hit the ball the other way out of the ballpark, and it’s like, ‘OK! Big-boy pop right there!’ It’s been impressive.”

And Sosa has provided that “sixth tool” of personality to the club. He’s just fun to watch. His body language speaks as he battles in the batter’s box. He’s got a flair for the dramatic and the acrobatic. He plays through pain — sometimes startlingly, like after getting beaned in the head — and he hustles so hard he once literally split his pants.

He also gets hit by pitches a lot. Seventeen times. That’s fourth-most in the National League (Jonathan India led with 23), and the other three fellows had nearly double the at-bats. This fall, a Cubs hurler named Tommy Nance knocked Sosa out of a game by injuring the hitter’s hand. Sure enough, Edmundo’s first game back was against Chicago.

“Same guy that hit him in the hand throws three up and in on (Andrew) Knizner,” Shildt said. “And then we pinch hit Sosa, and he has a missile right back at him. That was impressive. You know, that kind of speaks to the mindset and the dedication and the desire to compete that Sosa brings. Smart player, good player.”

But will the Cards opt to go with Sosa at shortstop in 2022?

Oh, and will the Cards even opt to go with Sosa at shortstop in the wild card game?

He’s 1 for 3 in his career against L.A. starter Max Scherzer, while Paul DeJong is 4 for 13 with a double and three RBIs.

Yes, just what about Paul DeJong? He signed a long-term contract and has shown some pop. And he’s a steadier fielder than Sosa is. But DeJong hit .197 this year in 356 at-bats. He hit 19 homers, which means he might’ve made the mid-20s or more with a full season. Still, his OPS didn’t even make it to the “sevens,” as he finished at .674. Both DeJong and Sosa hit righthanded.

DeJong is one of the kinder pro athletes I’ve ever met. And definitely yearns to win. But his 2021 leads St. Louis to look elsewhere in the first place. Now, the designated hitter could be in place in 2022. Maybe that keeps him in St. Louis. But if the Cards do get Seager, could DeJong and Sosa both be on the roster? We’ll see. A lot of decisions to make — and decisions that could affect other decisions.

But in the short-term at short, it’s all about maximizing production on Wednesday, while preventing Seager from making any more postseason memories — until at least another year.

Last year, Seager pulled a rare feat, though one we’ve seen accomplished by both Darrell Porter (1982) and David Freese (2011) — winning both the NLCS and World Series MVPs. A native of North Carolina (the same state that gave us Mike Shildt), Seager hit five homers in the seven-game National League Championship Series against Atlanta. Then in the fall classic, he hit two more, while finishing with a .400 average in the six games. The trophy shelf that displayed the 2016 Rookie of the Year got crowded fast.

Interestingly, Seager might’ve been a Cardinal nearly a decade ago. In 2012, the Cards had the 19th overall draft pick. But with the pick right before, the Dodgers selected Seager. This isn’t to say St. Louis still wouldn’t have gone with Michael Wacha if he and Seager were both on the board. But the Cards did have interest in offense in that draft, as they selected hitters with the next four picks, including two infielders.

The Wacha picked turned out quite well. He, too, won an NLCS MVP.

But Seager has been a star in Hollywood.

In today’s 10 a.m. video, columnist Ben Hochman discusses Albert Pujols’ possible role for the Dodgers in the loser-goes-home wild card game Wednesday. And, as always, Hochman chooses a random St. Louis Cards card from the hat!

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