With the Home Opener just 3 days away, only a few questions remain about who the Cardinals are bringing north to St. Louis. There are a few questions about who will be the 5th starter, and who will round out the bullpen, but most of the Cardinals’ decisions have been made. I take a look at the Cardinals who will be hopefully providing more offense than their team did last year, as they hit .244 as a club.
The Cardinals starting lineup and bench players, barring any unforeseen injuries, are pretty much locked. The starting outfield working from left to right will be Tyler O’Neil, Harrison Bader (who just recently got a 2 year contract extension), and Dylan Carlson. The starting outfield averages just 25 years of age, and hopefully continues to flourish as they showed lots of promise towards the end of last year. With two gold glovers (O’Neil had 12 defensive runs saved & Bader had 15 defensive runs saved) they should help the Cardinals pitching staff immensely.
Speaking of gold gloves, the Cardinals infield is almost made entirely of gold. With Nolan Arenado at third, Paul Dejong at short, Tommy Edman at second, and Paul Goldschmidt at first; the Cardinals boast 3 gold gloves (only Dejong, who’s solid with the glove, didn’t win a gold glove). Having Goldschmidt and Arenado, who combined to hit 65 home runs and drive in more than 200 runs, gives the Cardinals one of the top combinations of corner gloves/bats in the National League. Tommy Edman, who took over last year for Kolten Wong, led the National League in plate appearances. Having someone who can play each and every day while providing great defense and a steady bat is something Cardinals fans can be thankful for. Paul Dejong, who had a down year offensively, looks to have a bounce back season in 2022. If Spring Training stats are an indication of future success, Paul looks to have a solid season as he is currently batting .500 with half of his hits going for extra bases (3 doubles and 2 home runs) while only striking out 3 times.
Rounding out the starters is catcher Yadier Molina. Yadier, future Hall of Famer, Molina. Molina, who is playing his last season in the big leagues, has provided the Cardinals with so many great memories dating all the way back to his debut as a 21 year old in 2004. Yadi turns 40 later this year, and while he may be slowing down statistically, all of his intangibles are something that simply can’t be measured. Rest assured, the Cardinals are still in good hands with Yadier Molina behind the plate.
Splitting the duties, presumably, at the new National League Designated Hitter position are left handed hitting Corey Dickerson & Lars Nootbar and from the right side another future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols. I think manager Oli Marmol will deploy these 3 guys depending on the pitching matchups. Corey Dickerson, signed to a 1 year contract, has played for 4 teams over the last 3 seasons. He is a guy with upside, but not a guy who seems to stick around in one place too long. Dickerson is a guy who is a low ball hitter, and when I say low, I mean LOW. He’s known through the league as a “bad ball” hitter and hopefully is able to capitalize on pitchers mistakes or pitchers waste pitches which is what he typically looks to swing at. I look for Dickerson to get most of his at bats against righties, as he shouldn’t be deployed with left handed pitchers. Nootbar, who arrived in St. Louis last year provided the Cardinals with some great memories during their historic 17 game winning streak last year both defensive and offensively. However, at bats for him may be hard to come by for him this year. Nootbar, who struck out in ¼ of his at bats, seems to be a guy who will get plate appearances against hard throwing righties. Albert Pujols is back in St. Louis. A perennial MVP candidate over his first 10 years (he won 3, and finished 2nd four times) Albert will play his first time in the Cardinals home dugout since Game 7 of the 2011 World Series. Albert will be deployed as the DH against lefties, but if he gets hot, or looks anything like the guy he was a decade ago in St. Louis, look for him to be given the chance to mash. Pujols, who is nearing so many records, with the biggest probably 700 home runs (21 shy) hopes to finish his Hall of Fame career as strong as possible.Rounding out the bench will be backup catcher Andrew Knizner and backup infielder Edmundo Sosa. With Molina nearing 40, look for Knizner to get more reps behind the dish, however we know how Yadier wants to be in the lineup everyday so if he’s feeling well and playing well Knizner will once again be stored on the bench. Edmundo Sosa, who can be positioned anywhere in the infield, filled in admirably for Paul Dejong last year hitting .271 over 113 games. Sosa will be counted on in case of injury or if Dejong doesn’t bounce back from a disastrous season last year (Paul hit .197 and struck out in 29% of his at bats in 2021).