Combining a productive bat with sure-handed glovework, Polanco developed into one of baseball’s most valuable utility infielders in the late 1990s. After reaching the big leagues with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998, the Dominican proved reliable at second base, third base and shortstop. Though not a power threat, he batted over .300 in both 2000 and 2001 for a pair of St. Louis playoff teams. In 2001 he won a full-time spot in the Cardinals lineup, but continued to split his playing time around the infield. That season, he topped 500 at-bats for the first time and set career highs in runs, hits and steals.