This St. Louis Cardinal slugger has been the subject of hundreds of articles about his slugging prowess and his natural hitting ability; sometimes controversial, batting in the middle of the Redbird order he is likely to be the key to whether they can contend for a division title this year.

Mark McGwire? No, not exactly.

J.D. Drew on any other ballclub would be earning the notices of fans and collectors, particularly those speculating on rookie cards, this spring. His face would be on the cover of magazines and newspapers, talk show hosts would be touting his ability to become rookie of the year (or bust of the year) and TV anchor types would be drooling over a 15-second sound byte from the former Florida State player.

But Drew plays on the Cardinals and the focus on St. Louis for the past year has been on that fellow named McGwire and whether or not he can hit 71 or 75 or 100 home runs this year. For Drew, it is probably a godsend; for collectors, it's caveat emptor (let the buyer beware).

Drew was originally drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies but, like W.C. Fields, he didn't want to get buried there. So he played for St. Paul in the Class A league while re-entering the amateur draft. The Cardinals selected him and, much to the chagrin of some other St. Louis players, received a huge signing bonus and long-term deal.

So confident is St. Louis of Drew's abilities that they let go proven outfielder Brian Jordan to the Atlanta Braves via free agency and traded disgruntled outfielder Ron Gant to the Phillies (where may be he can fill the shoes Drew was supposed to have filled in the Philadelphia outfield).

Unlike most other highly touted rookies, Drew has already been told by manager Tony LaRussa he will be the starting outfielder. He had an impressive September in limited action -- he hit five homers in just 36 at-bats that went mostly unnoticed due to McGwire's assault on Roger Maris' record -- and convinced St. Louis he is the star of the future.

A Drew rookie card -- he technically remains a rookie this year because he lacked sufficient at- bats last year to be considered a rookie -- is probably going to be the hot one this year. Batting in a lineup that includes McGwire should help Drew; so should the lack of the spotlight because of Big Mac. Whether he can live up to the billing scouts have given him remains to be seen.

Last year was a good year for rookies -- Kerry Wood of the Cubs struck out a NL record 20 in a game and Ben Grieve of Oakland batted over .300 for most of the season -- and this year may prove to be another banner year. In addition to Drew, the most highly touted first year player is again with Oakland (ironically McGwire's original team). Eric Chavez, who like Drew got a callup in September and responded with a .311 average, is penciled in as the Oakland third baseman. He hit 33 homers in the minors last year and may be the cornerstone of an improving A's team that may contend for division honors in the year 2,000.

While Drew and Chavez are labeled as