DeJong, who initially remained in Jupiter, Florida when spring training was suspended, has been working out regularly in the St. Louis area for some time, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Goold reports DeJong has regularly been able to incorporate fielding practice into his workouts, and it's likely he's also gotten hitting work done in some form. The 26-year-old swung a scalding hot bat during Grapefruit League play, hitting .464 (13-for-28) across 11 exhibitions before play was paused. His presence in the St. Louis area would seem to indicate DeJong will be among the players present for the small group workouts the Cardinals will be allowed to conduct at Busch Stadium beginning next week, and the slugger is among those eager to see proposed plans for a 2020 season come to fruition. "Baseball players want to play," DeJong said. "We're going to have to go out there. I think the game is bigger than all of this. We have to do everything we can to preserve the game in its most natural state. If this means a temporary season like this year where we have to try out some new measures, I'm all for it because I know I want to play."
DeJong, who hit .464 (13-for-28) before spring training was suspended, proved himself worthy of manning the No. 4 spot in the order this coming season with his Grapefruit League performance, Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. DeJong's aforementioned impressive batting average was largely comprised of a double, four home runs, eight RBI, two walks and seven runs, certainly lending credence to the notion he's ramping up for a big season. Hummel notes that DeJong has now been working closely with hitting coach Jeff Albert for a full year, a relationship that appears to be paying dividends after the shortstop hit just .233 in 2019, including .193 with men in scoring position. Resurgent seasons from both DeJong and No. 3 hitter Paul Goldschmidt would give the Cardinals one of the more formidable 1-2 punches in the majors at those critical spots in the order.
DeJong, who went 2-for-3 with a run in a Grapefruit League win over the Astros on Tuesday, is hitting .571 with a double, three home runs, seven RBI, a walk and five runs across his first six spring games. DeJong's exhibition slate has been a rousing success early, as he now has a five-game hitting streak and homered both Sunday and Monday. Anne Rogers of MLB.com reports the 26-year-old vowed to simplify his approach at the plate this season by focusing on laying off any pitches that are down and away, the culprit for many of his career-high 149 strikeouts in 2019. DeJong is hoping that by establishing a zone and sticking to it, he'll also improve his situational hitting after slashing an unsightly .193/.297/.277 with runners in scoring position last season, including slugging only one of his 30 homers with a runner on second or third base.
DeJong, who went 2-for-2 with a walk and a run in a Grapefruit League win over the Astros on Wednesday, also hit a three-run home run and drove in four runs overall in an exhibition loss to the Nationals on Tuesday. The slugging shortstop has only logged six plate appearances through three spring games, but he's made excellent use of them. DeJong mustered career highs in extra-base hits (62) in 2019, including new high-water marks in doubles (31) and home runs (30). He drove in a career-best 78 runs, but he also produced a pedestrian .233 average, the lowest of his big-league career thus far. The timely hitting he's demonstrated over a small sample thus far in Grapefruit League play is a particularly welcome sight after DeJong hit just .193 with men in scoring position last season, and Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports manager Mike Shildt was particularly gratified to see it. "I want to see Paul hit with that runner at third, less than two outs, " Shildt said. "And today we got that situation. He got to two strikes and didn't try to do too much. What a fluid, pretty swing."
DeJong went 1-for-4 with a solo home run in a loss to the Cubs on Saturday. DeJong got to the 30-homer threshold with his 416-foot solo shot in the eighth, his third round tripper over the last six contests. The power-hitting shortstop is scuffling outside of the big blasts in September, however, as he's hitting just .179 (17-for-95) since the calendar flipped from August.