Adding a four-time Silver Slugger Award winner is certain to improve any lineup. But adding that award winner to the St. Louis Cardinals lineup will be a much-needed weight lifted.
Tuesday’s official addition of Nolan Arenado added a .293/.349/.541 hitter with a 15% strikeout percentage to a lineup that has struggled offensively. It’s easy to see that the five-time All-Star will take a load off some younger St. Louis Cardinals players that were maybe doing too much in years past to make up for the lack of consistent offense.
After signing a long-term extension with the Rockies before the 2019 season, Arenado struggled in a shortened 2020 season with shoulder issues that were compounded by issues with the Colorado Rockies front office.
Arenado is getting a change of scenery to St. Louis that includes a level of excitement expressed throughout his introductory press conference.
ZiPS is projecting Arenado will hit .289/.354/.534 with a 14.5 K% and .363 wOBA. They are slating him to be a 6.6 offensive WAR player.
Now let’s take a look at the Cardinals’ outfield numbers from 2020. While it was a shortened season, you will still see what track the players were on. I’ll also take a look at their ZiPS projections.
Harrison Bader 2020: .226/.336/.443 .337/wOBA and 32 K%
ZiPS 2021: .228/.314/.404 .306/wOBA and 31.8 K%
Bader usually hits toward the bottom of the lineup. For his career, Bader has a 43.6 pull percentage and in 2020 alone he had a 43.9 fly ball percentage. He seems to be trying hard to be the hero. With Arenado in the lineup, hopefully they can talk Bader into hitting just to get on base and move. He should realize he is most beneficial for his defense and just getting on base is all he will really need to do on offense.
Tyler O’Neill: 2020 .173/.261/.360 .189 BABIP 27.4 K%
ZiPS 2021: .227/.290/.436 .283 BABIP 31.4 K%
Well, thank goodness O’Neill had a Gold Glove-winning season in left field. I definitely appreciate how well he did defensively in 2020, but he had a terrible year at the plate. Much like Bader, you could easily assume O’Neill was trying too hard.
He only had seven homers in 2020, but ZiPS is projecting he will knock 21 homers. That’s more of what you would expect. Hopefully having Arenado in the lineup will allow O’Neill to relax and get his swing back. He can still show off with the glove in the outfield, we just need his bat back, too.
Dexter Fowler 2020: .233/.317/.389
ZiPS 2021: .233/.320/.380 .302 wOBA
Fowler was on the disabled list for a good while in 2020 while in quarantine adjusting to newer medications. The Cardinals wanted Fowler for his leadership and hitting. He’s had a time adjusting in St. Louis, but this is the final year of his 5/$82.5 million contract. That said, I expect Fowler to have an above-average year. He will want to prove he is the guy Mo wanted. I think with Arenado in the mix, Fowler may feel some relief to step back and focus on being a leader, finding his way at the plate, and just getting on base.
You would have to wonder if Fowler doesn’t perform well, would John Mozeliak trade the man he has worked hard to make happy? It will be interesting to see how he does. It’s a big year for Fowler if he wants another big contract.
Dylan Carlson 2020: .200/.252/.364 .264 wOBA
ZiPS 2021: .245/.315/.426. .313 wOBA
I feel Carlson will be the one guy that most benefits from the addition of Arenado. He will have another star player to look up to and pick his brain on what he can do better.
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The young man struggled in his first games in his rookie season as he was usually put near Paul Goldschmidt in the lineup which created a struggle for him to either get on base or drive him in. Arenado places another buffer for Carlson. It lifts a need-to-do-it-all type weight off his shoulders.
It will allow him to relax and become the player we are all expecting him to be – a superstar on the level of Arenado and Goldschmidt. I hope the Arenado addition allows him to do better than the ZiPS projections forecast. May not happen in 2021, but I do expect in the future he definitely will be better.
The acquisition of Arenado is a boost to the entire organization. He will be a force combined with the established pieces in an already good team. It will be interesting to see over the course of 2021 how that acquisition will help players unburden themselves from their struggles and just play.