2024 Season Preview: St Louis Cardinals

What happened in 2023?

71-91 – 5th place in the National League (NL) Central

Do I have to? Really??

In a nutshell, 2023 turned out exactly as many fans had feared before a ball was pitched. The rotation to start the season looked to be a couple of injuries away from disaster and disaster struck early.

Adam Wainwright, in his MLB swansong was injured before the season began and never recovered, looking every one of his 41 years when he re-joined the rotation. Steven Matz proved once and for all that he was made of glass, with injuries again proving his downfall. The Jack Flaherty of 2019 was long gone, with the usually reliable Miles Mikolas having a down year as well. The fans were left to say ‘I told you so’ as the rotation became a merry-go round of potential starters and the bullpen, horribly-stretched and overworked.

Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

More of a mystery was the misfiring batting lineup including the previous season’s NL MVP Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado failed to live up to their reputations, especially with runners in scoring position.

The fielding was average, the front office and sometimes the coaching was embarrassing… need I go on.

But at least we got to see the team play in London, so there was one positive!

Notable comings and goings

In

Kyle Gibson, Lance Lynn, Sonny Gray, Nick Robertson, Andrew Kittredge, John King, Matt Carpenter, Brandon Crawford

Out

Adam Wainwright, Drew Verhagen, Jake Woodford, Andrew Knizner, Juan Yepez, Dakota Hudson, Tyler O’Neill, Tyler Motter

Areas of weakness

Guess what? It’s the rotation again!

Everyone knew that strengthening the rotation was the main need for the Cardinals this offseason. The front office went early and signed Sonny Gray, Lance Lynn and Kyle Gibson. One genuine front line starter and two journeymen, who we thought were there to make up the numbers and pad out the rotation after we’d made a few more signings.

And so, we waited and watched as other teams signed the likes of Yamamoto, Nola, Kershaw, Gioloto, Stroman, Imanaga and Watcha while the Cardinals did nothing. Snell came and went in recent days and Montgomery remains as the only unsigned starter on the market and we won’t sign him either.

So, it seems that our hopes rest on a rotation of Sonny Gray, who starts the year carrying an injury, alongside Lance Lynn and Kyle Gibson, who have a combined age of 72 and are both very much on the decline, Miles Mikolas – who will be hoping to recover after a disappointing 2023 – and the ever-injured Steven Matz.

I can hear the rest of the league quaking in their boots!

Four of the five need to significantly improve on last season to even be competitive and the worry is that like last year, this could all get very messy, very quickly.

Ones to watch

The Cardinals are still built to score plenty of runs and two young guns may be key to a productive lineup in 2024.

Jordan Walker was brought up on Opening Day in 2023. Heralded as the great young hope, a rookie of the year contender and the future face of the organisation.

He started the year with a record tying streak of hits for a rookie – the hype was real, except the front office didn’t agree and he was sent back to the minors before April was out, to work on his swing, re-appearing in June and ended the season with respectable numbers. Av.276/ OBP.342/SLG.445 with 16 homers and 51 RBI’s.

Image credit: Laurie Skrivan/St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Nothing special, but the guy can certainly hit and he will have learned a lot from his stop/start 2023 season that should make him a tough out in 2024. Walker is big and strong 6-6, 250lbs and the ball leaves his bat in a hurry. He has a strong arm and, after initially struggling, he visibly improved in the outfield during the season.

2024 is a big year for Walker and if he can harness his power and velocity into more consistent hitting he could be a breakout star in 2024.

Another big hope for a breakout 2024 season is 23-year-old second baseman Nolan Gorman.

Gorman suffered with injuries in 2023, but still ended the year with 27 home runs and 76 RBI’s. He does strike out too much and last year, he wasn’t always trusted against left handers, often being left out of the lineup, although his end of season splits would suggest otherwise. Like Walker, Gorman has plenty of power and if he can stay clear of injuries, he could shine this year.

2024 prediction

There are plenty of reasons for Cardinals fans to be pessimistic as we head into the 2024 season. The aforementioned rotation, the lack of spending in the offseason, the clubhouse resembling a retirement home with Lynn and Gibson being joined by Brandon Crawford and the returning Matt Carpenter and manager Oli Marmol signing a contract extension to the end of 2026, despite leading the team to its worst record in decades last year.

Still, the lineup still looks loaded with Goldschmidt, Arenado, Walker, Gorman, Nootbaar, Contreras, Donovan and Edman still more than capable of putting up big numbers and making up for the pitching deficiencies.

But, the biggest positive for the Cards is that we play in the NL Central, which is there for the taking. The Pirates will be the Pirates and, while the Reds are improving, they don’t look quite ready to make the leap to division winners this year and the Brewers look to have regressed, losing key personnel on and off the field.

Which, of course, leaves our beloved Cubs. While keeping Cody Bellinger gives them a boost and their rotation looks strong, are they really any better than last year?

Would Cardinals fans be surprised if we won the division? A little maybe, but we’re the Cardinals; we’re meant to win!

Would Cardinals fans be surprised if we finished rock bottom again? A little maybe, but what have we done to address the issues of last year?

So, take your pick, which version will we see in 2024? Personally, I think we will improve on 2023 with around 83 wins, but whether that is enough to win the division or placate a loyal and expectant fanbase, time will tell.

Featured image of Jordan Walker from cutterslugger.

Mark Phillips is a regular contributor to the St Louis Cardinals UK Podcast and Youtube channel. Follow him on Twitter/’X’ @MLBfanUK.

2 Comments

  1. Nice piece … as a London-based Redbirds fan (since 1975! I’m actually originally from STL) I just want to see some respectable baseball in 2024. There’s lots of talent on the roster, weak spot (again) is pitching, as you point out very well! I would say, the Reds will be tougher this year, so we’ll have to get past them and the Brewers! But anything can happen in the NL Central …
    An yes, it was great seeing the Boys here in London last summer.

  2. Thanks, appreciate the feedback and great to hear from a long time fan. Would definitely take ‘respectable’ this year!

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