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Here’s the Cardinals 2023 Lineup

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Baseball America published their projected lineup for the 2023 Cardinals. I have just a few changes.

St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Yesterday, as part of the rollout of their rankings for the Cardinals, Baseball America published a projected 2023 roster for the club. Here’s what it looked like:

Catcher: Ivan Herrera (23)
First Base: Paul Goldschmidt (35)
Second Base: Tommy Edman (28)
Third Base: Nolan Gorman (23)
Shortstop: Paul DeJong (29)
Left Field: Dylan Carlson (24)
Center Field: Harrison Bader (29)
Right Field: Tyler O’Neill (28)

No. 1 Starter: Jack Flaherty (27)
No. 2 Starter: Dakota Hudson (28)
No. 3 Starter: Miles Mikolas (34)
No. 4 Starter: Genesis Cabrera (26)
No. 5 Starter: Ryan Helsley (28)
Closer: Jordan Hicks (26)

Obviously, BA is just looking at who the team currently has under contract and who is in the system as they project this. And honestly, if you’re projecting the St. Louis Cardinals organization, assuming they will make no meaningful free agent acquisitions and fill all needs internally is probably pretty close to best practice anyway.

But I wanted to go just a bit deeper, consider extensions and outside acquisitions, and ultimately fill this whole exercise with even more conjecture. It’s also worth nothing that the current CBA is set to expire after the 2021 season, so while we’ll assume here that the structure of the current labor agreement persists, it very well might not.

I largely agree with this BA list. For a handful of players, it’s simply because they are already under contract for 2023:

First Base: Paul Goldschmidt (35)
Shortstop: Paul DeJong (29)
No. 3 Starter: Miles Mikolas (34)

DeJong should be still more-or-less in his prime, in the final guaranteed year of his deal, for a modest $9.1 million. There are pretty friendly club options for 2024 and 2025 as well.

Mikolas will be in the final guaranteed year of his deal. Goldschmidt will be on the books through 2024. Both look to me like good candidates for the kind of slow decline that keeps them on the field, if somewhat diminished, through their deals. The prospect of trading either or the DeWitts choosing to eat their salary are not especially likely.

The one other player the Cardinals could still have under a long-term deal in 2023 is Carlos Martinez. His guaranteed deal runs through 2021, with club options for ‘22 and ‘23 at $17 and $18 million, respectively. He’ll only be 31 in 2023, and if he continues to produce in either the rotation or the bullpen, it’s certainly easy to imagine the Cardinals picking up both options.

But there’s a lot of other variables here as well. The bullpen/rotation question still seems unresolved, and while in my house, we love and appreciate Carlos Martinez, it does seem like he’s someone the organization would consider moving. So if I had to predict, I’d say the odds lean slightly toward him not being on the 2023 team.

As for the young guys, I agree with BA on:

Catcher: Ivan Herrera (23)
Third Base: Nolan Gorman (23)
Left Field: Dylan Carlson (24)

No. 1 Starter: Jack Flaherty (27)
No. 2 Starter: Dakota Hudson (28)
No. 4 Starter: Genesis Cabrera (26)
Closer: Jordan Hicks (26)

Carlson, Herrera and Gorman are the studs of the system on the position player side, and each should be firmly entrenched in St. Louis and delightfully cost-controlled by 2023. Under the current CBA, only Carlson would likely be reaching his first year of arbitration.

There is the matter of Andrew Knizner to consider, and it’s very possible that he could stick around as the heir to Yadi. But Herrera’s stock continues to rise, and in 2023 he will still be younger than Knizner is now. If Herrera keeps rising the way he has been, and Yadi keeps playing nearly every day for the next couple years, I’d expect Knizner to become trade bait.

On the pitching side, a Cardinal rotation made up largely of cost-controlled, homegrown talent...? This checks out. Jack Flaherty will be in his final year of club control as a highly paid Arb 3 guy, unless they Cardinals can sign him to a long-term contract. But either way, he’ll be on the team. Hicks will also be an Arb 3 player.

Dakota Hudson needs to improve certain aspects of his game - primarily the walks - but he's demonstrated enough track record that I expect him to still be here in his Arb 2 season.

Genesis Cabrera has all of 22 innings pitched at the Big League level, mostly in relief, and with uneven results. More or less ditto Ryan Helsley. Baseball America projects both of them to be in the 2023 rotation, and they may be right. Me? I think there’s enough risk with either that I’m predicting only one or the other will be in the rotation - though I expect the other to be a solid bullpen piece.

Cabrera is younger and left-handed, so I’ll lay my chips there. In terms of ceiling, I think only Jack Flaherty has a higher one among Cardinals pitchers.

As for the other guys on the BA list...

Tommy Edman is one I am very close to buying into... but not quite. For one thing: I think Edman’s best role may well be in the Ben Zobrist, super-utility mold. Even if he can maintain his offensive production despite some concerning underlying numbers, he could be extremely valuable as a guy who gets maybe 500 PAs around the infield and even some corner outfield spots, stepping in for long-term duty in one of those areas should a need arise.

But the other thing is... I’m not 100% convinced on Edman at the plate. As I wrote a couple weeks back, there is a lot of Randall Grichuk and Harrison Bader to Edman’s profile. I’m not saying Tommy Edman won’t be a good player or won’t be on the team, but there’s enough questions here that I’m not going to pencil him in.

So, who will play 2B for the 2023 Cardinals?

Kolten Wong seems like a guy who really wants to play in St. Louis, to continue to grow the love that has finally been allowed to sprout with this fan base. And with the non-Matheny version of the Cardinals Staff finally giving him the opportunity to play his game, he has flourished.

This is Wong’s last guaranteed year, but there is a 2021 club option. It’s very easy for me to imagine an extension that keeps Wong in St. Louis through 2023, his age 32 season.

Second Base: Kolten Wong (32)

In the outfield, along with Carlson, Baseball America projects Harrison Bader and Tyler O’Neill. If you had to project using only pieces currently in the system, this makes sense. But this is one area where I expect some outside help will be needed.

Between Bader and O’Neill, not to mention Lane Thomas and Randy Arozarena, the club has a lot of guys who look pretty solidly like #4 or #5 outfielders, but who have not necessarily proven themselves to be starting lineup worthy.

VEB Reader Harrison Bader has accomplished the most at the Big League level, but that also earned him the playing time that exposed the most offensive holes. The other guys... big tools, but not a lot of track record of success at the MLB level. Just by the law of averages, I expect that one of these guys will rise and find their way into the starting lineup, one or two will be on the bench, and at least one will be traded.

Bader will be in his final year of arbitration by 2023, meaning his salary will rise to around market rate. The Reds held onto Billy Hamilton until he reached that point, but cut bait when his salary reached that level. Bader was up-and-down as a guy making MLB minimum in his 2nd season... it’s hard for me to see him staying ahead of the cost curve by 2023.

Of the other three, I think O’Neill and Thomas are pretty close, with Arozarena a bit behind. I’m a Lane Thomas guy, so I’m going to say:

Center Field: Lane Thomas (27)

I expect at least one of these outfield spots will need to be filled by a player outside the organization. Given it will be several years after the Paul Goldschmidt acquisition, I can certainly imagine the Cardinals going big again. So I took a look at free agents to-be from 2021-2023, with the understanding that the team may well use their tried-and-true practice of trading for a guy and then re-signing him.

This is really pulling a name out of a hat, but I can see the Cardinals looking for a guy who is very good but maybe not the tip-top of the market, who can maybe still play Center but is likely beginning the transition to a corner. Kind of a Dexter Fowler+. Here’s what I came up with:

Right Field: Trea Turner (30)

So that just leaves one Starting Pitching slot. Imagine trying to predict who will be a good starting pitcher in 2023? I barely feel comfortable predicting who will be good next week. Pitchers are crazy volatile and they break all the time.

But with that being said, I expect the 2023 team will have gone outside the org to bolster depth at some point. And again, this being the Cardinals, I do not expect they will have been in the market for any of the TOP guys. So who’s going to be available in that window..? There are many options, so let’s go with one who seems completely reasonable, but is also an Illinois native and professed Cardinal fan:

No. 5 Starter: Mike Foltynewicz (31)

And there you have it: My complete and accurate prediction of who will be on the 2023 St. Louis Cardinals.

Catcher: Ivan Herrera (23)
First Base: Paul Goldschmidt (35)
Second Base: Kolten Wong (32)
Third Base: Nolan Gorman (23)
Shortstop: Paul DeJong (29)
Left Field: Dylan Carlson (24)
Center Field: Lane Thomas (27)
Right Field: Trea Turner (30)

No. 1 Starter: Jack Flaherty (27)
No. 2 Starter: Dakota Hudson (28)
No. 3 Starter: Miles Mikolas (34)
No. 4 Starter: Genesis Cabrera (26)
No. 5 Starter: Mike Foltynewicz (31)
Closer: Jordan Hicks (26)

Disagree? Fight me in the comments.

And have yourself a happy Thanksgiving.