The St. Louis Cardinals won the NL Central last season with a 93-69 record in 2022. They got absurd, MVP-level production from Paul Goldschmidt (who won the award) and Nolan Arenado (who finished third in the voting), and a 5.6 fWAR season from Tommy Edman. The pitching was shakier, but Miles Mikolas, the evergreen Adam Wainwright, and midseason acquisition Jordan Montgomery did just fine. Still, the Cardinals weren’t able to escape the first round of the postseason for the third year in a row, getting swept by the future NL Champion Phillies in a three-game set.
Expectations for 2023
After a subdued offseason that saw the team sign one of the best catchers in the league whilst a couple franchise icons departed, the Cardinals are projected to sit around 86-91 wins in 2023, and are the perceived favorites for the NL Central crown. There’s not too much competition there, really: the division will likely be won by either them or the Brewers, and there’s a decent chance that both make the playoffs. Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado are expected to take a step back in 2023 as both substantially outperformed their expected metrics. However, the addition of Willson Contreras, as well as the expected debut of top prospect Jordan Walker should help ease any potential dropoff in production from the team’s elite 2022 performers.
That the Cardinals added relatively little and still project to have a top-10 roster in 2023 is a testament to how much quality they have in house... pretty much as usual. After all, this is a team that hasn’t finished under .500 since 2007, hasn’t had back-to-back losing seasons since 1994-1995, and has made the playoffs in all but seven seasons whose year starts with a “2.”
Via Roster Resource:
- Tommy Edman SS
- Tyler O’Neill CF
- Paul Goldschmidt 1B
- Nolan Arenado 3B
- Willson Contreras C
- Dylan Carlson RF
- Lars Nootbaar LF
- Juan Yepez DH
- Brendan Donovan 2B
Andrew Knizer C
Paul DeJong INF
Nolan Gorman INF
Alec Burleson OF
- Adam Wainwright RHP
- Miles Mikolas RHP
- Jordan Montgomery LHP
- Jack Flaherty RHP
- Steven Matz LHP
Even though the offense is likely to take a step back from a 2022 where it finished in the top five in production, any lineup that features Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado and Wilson Contreras is going to have mashing be that team’s biggest strength. Besides those three, Tommy Edman is coming off of an insanely good year. Tyler O’Neill offers significant upside after having shown flashes in the past, Brendan Donovan finished 3 in NL Rookie of the Year voting last year after a strong season, and Lars Nootbaar posted fantastic stats in about a half-season’s worth of work.
Still, amid all those weapons, the team’s biggest strength is the ability to roll out Arenado and Goldschmidt in the same lineup and infield. Arenado has the fifth-best projection of any position player in Fangraphs’ Depth Charts, while Goldschmidt is 29th. Only five other teams even have two players anywhere in the top 29.
Despite having Miles Mikolas who is coming off of a fine-to-strong season, the rotation is this team’s biggest weakness, and really, the only part of this roster that looks below-average as a whole.
The rotation lacks the likelihood of high-end performances: Adam Wainwright had a 103 xFIP- last year, Jack Flaherty’s career fell apart after 2019, Steven Matz has struggled to stay both healthy and effective, and Miles Mikolas is great at eating innings but not much beyond that. That leaves Jordan Montgomery as a better-than-average arm, but he’s still not among the best pitchers in MLB, at least not yet.
There’s some depth here, but it’s not great. Matthew Liberatore has good-enough projections but has struggled in both the majors and minors recently. Dakota Hudson doesn’t even have good projections. Like 2022, the Cardinals are mostly built to have their starters eat innings while the bats overpower the opposing team.
Reinforcements from the farm
Jordan Walker, a consensus top 10 prospect in the league, is expected to debut at some point with the big-league club this upcoming season and add more problems for opposing pitching staffs to deal with. Starter Gordon Graceffo, another top-100 type, should be around to supplement the rotation at some point during the season. Catcher Ivan Herrera gives the team some redundancy should anything happen to Contreras and is close to the majors as well. This is a fairly top-heavy system, but fortunately for the Cardinals, the “top” is close to the majors and should give them some staying power through injury and underperformance as they seek to fend off the Brewers for a second straight year.
Braves and Cardinals matchup history
Last season the Braves and Cardinals went head-to-head seven times, with Atlanta edging out the season series 4-3.
The Braves and Cardinals are set to face off in the second series of the season, April 3-5, in St. Louis. They don’t face off again until the end of the season as their next battle comes in Atlanta, September 5-7.
Despite the victory in the 2019 NLDS, the Cardinals have really struggled with the Braves lately. They last won a season series from Atlanta back in 2017, and the regular season games since haven’t even been competitive that often: the Braves are 18-8 against the Cardinals (20-11 if you include the 2019 NLDS) since they returned to contention in 2018.