LOD’s 3 Players to Watch: St. Louis Cardinals
It seems like every year the St. Louis Cardinals put a competitive team on the field. Historically, they’re one of the most storied franchises in MLB, second only to the Yankees in World Series wins. In the past two decades alone, the Cardinals have two World Series victories (2006 and 2011), along with two additional NL pennants (2004 and 2013). They also have 11 NL Central division titles since 2000. Coming off an early postseason exit in 2022, the Cardinals are eager to return to prominence again in 2023. Given the level of competition coming out of the NL East (Braves, Mets and Phillies), winning an NL Central crown might be the only path forward for the Redbirds.
If the Cardinals are going to take the division in 2023, they are going to need productivity out of some of their regulars and new additions. Not just their top stars like Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado.
Lars Nootbaar, OF
Coming off his WBC Championship with Team Japan, Nootbaar is entering his second full season with the Cardinals. Nootbaar became the first non-Japanese born ballplayer to ever play for Japan in the WBC. Born and raised in Southern California, the USC Trojan’s mother is from Japan, qualifying him to play for the team. The eighth round pick in 2018 Draft is a strong defensive outfielder with potential for some decent numbers at the plate. He had a strong second half of the season in 2022. Nootbaar also brings some potential leadership traits to a young outfield.
The retirement of Yadier Molina left a big hole to fill behind the plate. The 10 time All-Star and 9 time Gold Glove winner achieved legendary status in Cardinals history and is arguably a future Hall of Famer. The Cardinals went out to fill that vacancy with a proven veteran from their rival Cubs, acquiring Willson Contreras. The older brother of the Brewers, William Contreras, is among the best defensive catchers in the game. He also has some considerable pop at the plate. Contreras is a three time All-Star who’s hit 20+ homers in four of his seven big league seasons (including 2022). At age 30, he signed a five year deal with St. Louis this off-season.
There’s a new face behind the dish in St. Louis. 🍽️
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) December 7, 2022
Adam Wainwright, SP
The longtime Cardinals righty threw for Team USA in the WBC this year. While Team USA advanced to the semifinals in a win over Team Cuba, Wainwright unfortunately suffered a groin injury that’s setting back his start date with St. Louis. Also, with the retirement of Yadi Molina, Wainwright will be without his longtime companion behind the plate. They set a record last season for 325 starts together as a batterymates, previously held by the Tigers Mickey Lolich and Bill Freehan. As Wainwright enters his 18th season in St. Louis, he closes in on his 200th all-time win. Wainwright has announced he will retire following the 2023 season. The Cardinals aim to send him off with another NL Central title and postseason run to cap off his long and fruitful career.
Will the Cardinals Repeat in the NL Central?
While most predictions out there have the Cardinals as the favorites to take the NL Central in 2023, it won’t be without a fight. As I’ve recently written about how the Brewers and Cubs are knocking at the door and the Reds and Pirates have young teams with something to prove. Cardinals fans have proven to be among the most loyal in all of baseball and they tend to put a competitive team on the field every season. 2023 should be no exception.