Let’s play a game. I have run out of things to write so I am forced to play a game. The game is to imagine a future St. Louis Cardinals roster. Just to try to guess who, if any, players still remain on the team on this faraway date. It can’t be too far in the future or it’s just pointless but it can’t be next year or it’s too easy. There’s a sweet spot where you can picture the roster, but you’re probably going to be wrong.
And in order to find that sweet spot, I went backwards in time. I looked at past Opening Day games to see how much has changed. And I think I found my date, with only one player in the same role then as they are now, which is inevitable and unavoidable in this game unless I want to go 17 years in the future, which is well past the point where this game would be worthwhile. What 12-year-old will be starting at second base in 17 years? Not a fun game!
That date was four years ago. Four years ago, just three players remain who played on Opening Day and two of them are in different roles. Yadier Molina is still the starting catcher. Again, that part I can’t change. Matt Carpenter was the starting first baseman and Carlos Martinez was the Opening Day starter. Martinez will probably make the rotation, but there’s a good argument he’s now the 5th starter and Matt Carpenter is pretty firmly a bench player now.
Everyone else is no longer a Cardinal. A few players wouldn’t have surprised and in fact we probably expected they’d be gone by 2021. Jhonny Peralta was the starting 3B and Jedd Gyorko the starting 2B. Randal Grichuk would have been a free agent by now had he not signed an extension the Cardinals would never have signed him to. Pinch hitter Greg Garcia is not the type of player who sticks with the same team that long. Closer Seung Hwan Oh was definitely always a short-term investment.
But others, well they might shock us. Aledmys Diaz seemed like the shortstop of the future. Stephen Piscotty was literally a day away from a 6 year extension becoming official, but even aside from that, he still has 5 years of service and wouldn’t be a free agent until 2022 anyway. Dexter Fowler obviously would be in year 5 of his contract and I wouldn’t have guessed we’d be able to trade him. And 2B replacement Kolten Wong had a very affordable team option for 2021 that I would guess that would be accepted, although, he was coming off his worst season so that might not have been that hard to imagine.
So let’s look four years in the future and make our best guess given the information we have right now. What does the 2025 Opening Day lineup look like?
The clear favorite for this spot has to be Ivan Herrera. It’d be nice if Andrew Knizner could establish himself enough to also be on the roster for 2025, however I think the overwhelming odds are that Knizner is not still with the Cardinals in 2025. For one thing, he’d be in his very last year before free agency (if he managed to stay on the Cardinals for the entirety of the next four years, that is. He has 1.021 years of service time, and if he starts 2021 in the minors, good chance he doesn’t surpass 2 years of service time by the end of 2021.
I was planning to give a few options here, but honestly, it’s just 1. Ivan Herrera 2. Ivan Herrera 3. Ivan Herrera continue that for the next 96 spots and then 100. Andrew Knizner 101. Some dude I could not possibly, in a million years, guess right now.
Pick: Ivan Herrera, (2025 age: 25)*
*I’m following the Baseball-Reference rules. If your birthday is before July 1st, but after Opening Day, your age is the age you turn on that birthday, not what age you are on Opening Day. So 2025 would be Herrera’s age 25 season since his birthday is in June.
Four years is also a good period of time because Paul Goldschmidt doesn’t have a contract for 2025, which makes this position difficult to project. Also making this position difficult: the fact that it’s first base. After Pujols and before Goldschmidt, the Cardinals starting 1B on Opening Day have been Lance Berkman, Allen Craig, Matt Adams (x2), Matt Holliday (yes), Matt Carpenter, and Jose Martinez. None of these could have been possibly predicted four years prior. Berkman looked like a lifelong Astro, Craig was the 14th ranked prospect in the system, Adams was a C prospect, Holliday was a career outfielder, Carpenter was pre-breakout MVP votes season, and Jose Martinez was a bad minor leaguer that we’d have no reason to pay attention to that wasn’t even in the Cardinals system.
So in light of that, the best guesses as of now have to be current prospects who can hit with questionable defensive prowess. The Matt Adams equivalent would be Luken Baker, but it’s rather hard to imagine him sticking around as a DH type only for that long. Clearly not a safe bet. There is no Carpenter equivalent. The Berkman equivalent would be, I guess, Freddie Freeman? Maybe Anthony Rizzo? Both are free agents after this season so they’d need to sign three year deals to make that feasible. Neither can play OF like Berkman “could.”
But for the purposes of this post, I will basically be looking for Craig, which seems kind of like the best bet. Pick whichever 3B prospect you want really: Nolan Gorman, Malcolm Nunez, Jordan Walker. Gorman, personally, seems like someone they’ll try to move to a different position before 1B. But Nunez and Walker? Sure. I’ll go Walker since he’s a 1st round pick.
Pick: Jordan Walker (2025 age: 23)
This is probably a position best designed to use percentages on likelihood, because it feels like there are three equally viable options for second base. The first is the most obvious: Tommy Edman. Edman is the current starter, will still be under team control in 2025, and will be a reasonable age (30). The second takes some hope and imagination: Nolan Gorman. Which is very hard to actually project right now since we don’t actually have any info other than “Gorman is willing to play 2B” which is a strong start admittedly!
The third is rather complicated, but it boils down to “the Cards signed one of the big SS in the upcoming free agency forcing Paul DeJong to move to 2B.” Unlikely yes, but I will say this: the SS group next free agency is truly absurd and one of those guys is gonna fly under the radar and the Cards will have money to spend. None of these outcomes, individually, are all that likely, but put them together and I think one of them is very likely to happen.
By the very slimmest of margins, I’m going to have to go Edman. Gorman is far, far too early without any reports on how he actually plays 2B and if DeJong moves to 2B, there’s a very, very good chance his $15 million club option is rejected.
Pick: Edman (2025 Age: 30)
I’m going to make this one very, very short, because I do not think he’ll opt-out at all.
Pick: Nolan Arenado (Age: 34)
If I had to bet money, right this very minute, on whether or not Paul DeJong is the starting SS in 2025, and you gave me even odds, I would easily bet against it. Easily. There’s his $15 million club option which is high enough that he has to be playing fairly well and project fairly well. I think there’s a nonzero chance he’ll end up moving to 2B before the end of his contract. But really, for right now, he’s the only option. The Cardinals signing one of the big SS is pretty unlikely, especially with DeJong already at SS and with Gorman working towards 2B. But let it be known, four years from now, that I think it will be someone other than DeJong, there’s just no other choice that’s even remotely close to as good of odds as him right now.
Pick: DeJong (2025 Age: 31)
Tyler O’Neill is a free agent after the 2024 season, although I do honestly think if he manages to break out in 2021, there’s a halfway decent chance he ends up signing an extension at some point before he reaches free agency. But when I thought O’Neill was still under team control in 2025, I had a different pick, and that pick is the same pick I’ll post below.
Pick: Nolan Gorman (2025 Age: 25)
Well, I’m stumped. I don’t think I have a guess. Harrison Bader is extraordinarily unlikely to still be here in 2025. I am certainly not enough of a believer in Lane Thomas to think he’s the answer. The Cardinals don’t have much in the way of obvious CF prospects that would be good for a pick like this. I mean sure they have Tre Fletcher, but he is so far away he might not even be ready in 2025! He’ll still be 24 then.
So I’m forced to go with what I think is most likely, even though I don’t think this is that likely and things will certainly change a lot between now and 2025 with regard to the CF position. I don’t think this pick is going to happen to be clear, but I think it’s the best choice I could possibly guess given all the other choices as the Cards choose an offensive weapon over defense. And hell, the defense might not be that bad.
Pick: Dylan Carlson (2025 Age: 26)
Honestly, the real answer here is Carlson for sure, but in the interest of making a 2025 lineup, Carlson has already been picked. There are certainly better guesses for RF than there were for CF, which is why I ultimately chose Carlson at CF. I could go with Jhon Torres or Terry Fuller or Lars Nootbar or Justin Toerner, but in the end I’m going to go with a bit of an unusual choice here, a guy who has consistently been young for his level and who progressed three levels in 2019. If it’s not Carlson, RF is a complete and utter guess so that’s what my pick is.
Pick: Juan Yepez (2025 Age: 27)
Yeah I’m not doing this. I will remain in denial.
I’ll leave it to the comments to guess a 5-man rotation, but I’m just going to stick with Opening Day starter. Zero of the 5 starters in the 2021 rotation are likely to still be on the team in 2025. Jack Flaherty has the best odds, and well... that tells you more about how unlikely everyone else is than that Flaherty is likely.
There are two rather obvious picks for the taking here: Zack Thompson and Matthew Liberatore. But I’m going to go out on a limb here and go pure gut feeling. Both Thomspon and Liberatore, right now at this very minute, feel like guys who will not be aces. I think they have a good chance to be on the 2025 rotation, but for some reason I’m thinking they’ll be more good than elite.
So crack the knuckles, get in for the ride, gut feeling, my pick is Angel Rondon. I know most of my picks have been the “best chance” and Rondon is certainly not the right pick on those grounds, but well each individual prospect I could pick is super unlikely to be the ace Opening Day starter in 2025, so why not go gut feeling here? This pick will probably look really stupid in four years, but what the hell?
Pick: Angel Rondon (2025 Age: 27)
Now picking the future closer really is a fool’s errand. It’s a fool errand to pick the closer for 2022, much less four years in the future. There aren’t that many options and I’m going to go with a “safe” pick on this one.
Pick: Junior Fernandez (2025 Age: 28)
Opening Day lineup 2025 is
- Tommy Edman, 2B
- Nolan Gorman, LF
- Nolan Arenado, 3B
- Dylan Carlson, CF
- Jordan Walker, 1B
- Paul DeJong, SS
- Ivan Herrera, C
- Juan Yepez, RF
- Angel Rondon, SP
There are exactly three guys who I fully expect to be starting on 2025 and if they are not, it would shock me: Gorman, Carlson, and Arenado. The rest would not shock me. In fact, Walker, Rondon, and Yepez actually making this come true would shock me. Like if I successfully predict even two of those three, it will be the best thing I ever do. I would brag about it on my death bed. You think I’m kidding, but I am not.
Give me your best 2025 Cardinals lineup.