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Cardinals Predictions - The Infield

The Cardinals infield is amazing. Let’s play over/under on its amazingness.

World Baseball Classic Pool C: United States v Colombia Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

This is now the third article in my St. Louis Cardinals predictions series. I started with the rotation before moving on to the outfield. If you want to catch up on my thoughts or the thoughts of the readers, you can find those predictions linked above.

If you have been reading this series, you’ll know that I am using ZIPS projection pro-rated for Depth Charts’ playing time projections. That’s all the intro I have for you today so let’s press on with ZIPS favorite member of the Cardinals infield (and maybe your favorite too) - Nolan Arenado.

Nolan Arenado ZIPS Projection

672 PA, .273/.339/.481, 28 HR, 8.4% BB%, 12.2% K%, .275 BABIP, 132 wRC+, 6.2 fWAR

My Prediction

Its tough making a prediction when a player is projected for 6.2 fWAR because that’s such a high bar to reach, yet I have total confidence that Arenado can reach it. Here are his fWAR totals since 2016: 5.9, 6.1, 6.2, 6.5, 0.7 (2020), 4.1, 7.3. So, not counting 2020, he been a pretty consistent 6 WAR player while finishing well below that mark once and well above it once.

Just last year, though, Arenado was an MVP candidate and finished second in the NL in fWAR. I’m not going to take the under on him after that. I feel confident that he will be at least a 6 WAR player this year and I’ll hedge my bets that he can top the 6.2 mark that he is being projected for.

Arenado “only” hit 30 home runs last year and that was his lowest output since 2014. I honestly, don’t expect him to go any lower than that. At least not yet. He’s also projected for an ISO of .208 which would be the lowest mark since his rookie year.

While those marks seem pessimistic, I should point out that Arenado’s 132 wRC+ would be a 19 point drop year over year but would also be right in line with his 2016-2019 Rockies years and is still an 11 point upgrade over his career average.

It’s crazy to me that a 6.2 fWAR is an under-projection but that’s exactly what I think it is. He will be 32 years old so there’s a chance that the third baseman starts slowing down, but even so, I think he’s a clear MVP candidate heading into the year and I wouldn’t be shocked to see him pushing for a 7 WAR season once again.

The Verdict - Over


Will Nolan Arenado finish with an fWAR over or under 6.2?

This poll is closed

  • 58%
    (453 votes)
  • 41%
    (315 votes)
768 votes total Vote Now

Paul Goldschmidt ZIPS Projection

672 PA, .275/.360/.481, 28 HR, 11.4% BB%, 22.1% K%, .321 BABIP, 140 wRC+, 4.7 fWAR

My Prediction

Yes, Paul Goldschmidt is 35. No, I don’t care. At some point he’ll slow down but in past 2 seasons, he’s been worth 5 WAR and 7.1 WAR. Oh, and he won the MVP last year. So, no I don’t expect him to drop all the way down to 4.7 this year.

I will fully admit that if I’m most likely to be wrong about a single prediction in this article it’s this one because time eventually catches up with everyone, even reigning MVPs.

28 home runs would be Goldschmidt’s lowest output since 2016 (excluding 2020), while a .275 average would be the second lowest of his career, excluding his rookie year in 2011 when he played only 48 games.

So, while I don’t think Goldschmidt is going to fade this much, this projection is still astounding to me, because` of just how good the projection is while still projecting some of the worst totals of his career.

I will say that a 140 wRC+ is still a great projection and its only 4 points below Goldschmidt’s career average. This projection likely isn’t too hopeful on Goldschmidt’s defense as it didn’t look too great statistically last year (2 DRS, -6 OAA), but I wouldn’t be shocked if last year was simply an anomaly considering how good and how consistent the first baseman has been defensively throughout his career.

Full disclosure, I will probably take the over on Paul Goldschmidt for the rest of his career unless he craters at some point, so it shouldn’t surprise you that I’m taking the over here.

The Verdict - Over


Will Paul Goldschmidt finish with an fWAR over or under 4.7?

This poll is closed

  • 83%
    (624 votes)
  • 16%
    (121 votes)
745 votes total Vote Now

Tommy Edman ZIPS Projection

623 PA, .262/.316/.399, 13 HR, 6.5% BB%, 16.3% K%, .297 BABIP, 105 wRC+, 4.3 fWAR

My Prediction

I love that the third best starting infielder on the team is projected for 4.3 WAR. That really just emphasizes how much talent the Cardinals have in this infield. And it should also emphasize why Masyn Winn should stay in the minors this year, regardless of how impressive he looks in spring training.

A 4.3 fWAR projection is reasonable for Tommy Edman but expecting a 20-year-old with no Triple-A experience to reach 4.3 fWAR in his rookie year is foolish. Masyn Winn’s time will come but right now patience is the best approach as the Cardinals have one of the best infields in baseball.

Let’s set aside the Masyn Winn talk for now, though, and get back to the subject at hand. Edman was worth a whopping 5.6 fWAR last year and that came with a 108 wRC+ and 630 plate appearances. Edman is projected for about the same marks this year (623 PA, 105 wRC+) which means that his projected fWAR total is likely weighed down by a defensive projection that is a bit pessimistic, likely considering Edman’s lack of shortstop experience at the major league level.

I do not share the same pessimism. Edman has a history of strong defense and in 622 innings at short, he accumulated 6 DRS and 11 OAA. He’s legit and with a full season at the position, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him rank among the best defensive shortstops in the game.

I don’t know if he’ll reach his 5.6 fWAR mark from a year ago but 4.5-5.0 seems well within reach. I’ll take the over.

The Verdict - Over


Will Tommy Edman finish with an fWAR over or under 4.3?

This poll is closed

  • 72%
    (526 votes)
  • 27%
    (198 votes)
724 votes total Vote Now

Willson Contreras ZIPS Projection

528 PA, .238/.335/.432, 21 HR, 9.2% BB%, 23.3% K%, .277 BABIP, 121 wRC+, 3.4 fWAR

My Prediction

I wonder how much of a bump Willson Contreras is getting from joining the Cardinals. I say that because 528 plate appearances would represent the second highest total of his career, behind his 2018 season when he took 544 trips to the plate. He was 26 at the time.

The Cardinals history of letting Yadier Molina catch nearly every day may be playing a role in the projection for Contreras, but it’s also possible that he will be in the lineup nearly every day whether catching or DHing so that may play a role in this projection too.

And, to be fair, while Contreras may not catch as much as prime-Yadi, he may very well be behind the plate a lot. The reasoning is simple - his backup isn’t good. Whether it’s Andrew Knizner (career -1.7 fWAR) or Tres Barrera (-0.4 fWAR in 2022), the Cardinals backup catcher will represent a significant drop off from Contreras.

Going beyond playing time, though, I think this WAR total is simply too high. And I say that because it would represent a career high for Contreras.

The reason for optimism is that he actually set his current career high in fWAR with 3.3 just last season. But, while I do think it’s absolutely possible that Contreras hits the 3.4 mark this year, I’m never going to predict that a 31 year old catcher is going to set a new career high in fWAR.

It’s as simple as that for me.

The Verdict - Under


Will Willson Contreras finish with an fWAR over or under 3.4?

This poll is closed

  • 39%
    (270 votes)
  • 60%
    (421 votes)
691 votes total Vote Now

Brendan Donovan ZIPS Projection

504 PA, .252/.353/.346, 6 HR, 11.1% BB%, 16.2% K%, .298 BABIP, 107 wRC+, 1.9 fWAR

My Prediction

For me, this one is the easiest pick. I’ll take the over by a mile. Brendan Donovan was worth 2.7 fWAR in fewer plate appearances last year and he seems to have some newfound power this spring while using the puck knob bat favored by a number of Cardinals.

The projection here is probably a bit low everywhere. Last year, Donovan batted .281. That’s nearly 30 points better than his projection. A good deal of that decline seems to be caused by the difference in his 2022 BABIP (.330) and his 2023 projected BABIP (.298). However, I’m not so convinced that Donovan’s average is going to decline. To begin with, he ran high BABIPs throughout his minor league career so it’s not too much of a stretch to believe that he can mantain higher than usual BABIPs. Secondly, he seems to have more power and hiting the ball harder generally leads to more hits.

All that goes to say that I think Donovan will hit better than .252 and his ISO will be much higher than his projected ISO of .094. I also wouldn’t be shocked if he had 6 home runs before the all-star break.

I could go on and on about how low this projection is, but I won’t because you get the point. And I also don’t want to bash ZIPS becuase this would be a perfectly reasonable projection, if maybe a bit low still, if Donovan hadn’t added more power in the offseason. But now Donovan has added some pop to a profile that already generated a 129 wRC+ last year and I’m excited to see what that means for his numbers.

I’m expecting another excellent season from him.

The Verdict - Over


Will Brendan Donovan finish with an fWAR over or under 1.9?

This poll is closed

  • 94%
    (668 votes)
  • 5%
    (37 votes)
705 votes total Vote Now


You’ll notice that I didn’t include Nolan Gorman in this piece and that’s because he’s not projected to be a starter so I’ll include him in my upcoming piece on the bench players. That bench and the relievers are the last two groups to predict so look out for those the next two Sundays.

Before I end this piece, I’ll give you a recap of the voting results for the outfielders

Lars Nootbaar (2.8 fWAR) - 93% over

Dylan Carlson (2.0 fWAR) - 80% over

Tyler O’Neill (3.8 fWAR) - 70% under

Jordan Walker (0.5 fWAR) - 94% over

That went about as I expected although I did think there would be a little more optimism for Tyler O’Neill. The voting did match my own thoughts, though, so I can’t be too surprised as 3.8 fWAR is a high mark.

Remember to get your votes in for the infielders and feel free to offer any thoughts or explanations in the comments.

Thanks for reading, VEB. Have a great Sunday!