St. Louis Cardinals: 3 things to watch for in 2022

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ST LOUIS, MO - JUNE 03: Yadier Molina #4 and Adam Wainwright #50 of the St. Louis Cardinals make their way to the dugout prior to a game against the Cincinnati Reds at Busch Stadium on June 3, 2021 in St Louis, Missouri. The pair made their 284th start together, the fourth-most starts among pitcher-catcher batteries in MLB history. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
ST LOUIS, MO - JUNE 03: Yadier Molina #4 and Adam Wainwright #50 of the St. Louis Cardinals make their way to the dugout prior to a game against the Cincinnati Reds at Busch Stadium on June 3, 2021 in St Louis, Missouri. The pair made their 284th start together, the fourth-most starts among pitcher-catcher batteries in MLB history. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /
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DENVER, COLORADO – JULY 11: Starting pitcher Matthew Liberatore #11 of the National League team throws against the American League team in the first inning of the All-Star Futures Game at Coors Field on July 11, 2021 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
DENVER, COLORADO – JULY 11: Starting pitcher Matthew Liberatore #11 of the National League team throws against the American League team in the first inning of the All-Star Futures Game at Coors Field on July 11, 2021 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /

The debuts of some highly touted prospects

The Cardinals didn’t have many top prospects debut this season; the most notable was probably Lars Nootbaar. That could change next season, as Ivan Herrera, Matthew Liberatore and Nolan Gorman all appear ready to contribute at some point in 2022.

Herrera will ideally back up Molina, who will be in his final season. Where that puts Andrew Knizner, I’m not sure. The Cardinals might be best served to release Knizner or find a trade partner, because he’s doesn’t seem to have the tools to perform as a starting catcher. Herrera, though, could have the ability to serve as Molina’s heir, but he desperately needs a year under Molina’s tutelage to help him be effective in the future.

Liberatore could fill the rotation nicely. Jon Lester, Wade LeBlanc and J.A. Happ are almost certainly gone after this season, so there should be a spot for him to start right away if the Cardinals choose to go that route. A rotation with Jack Flaherty, Adam Wainwright, Dakota Hudson, Miles Mikolas and Liberatore could be solid, and like Herrera under Molina, Liberatore has a chance to learn from a Cardinals great in Wainwright.

Gorman has spent a lot of time on the farm learning to play second base, where the Cardinals would be able to fit him in better. Nolan Arenado is entrenched at third base, and while it appears that Tommy Edman isn’t going to concede his second base position, he has shown the ability to play elsewhere on the diamond. If Gorman emerges as an everyday second baseman, he could provide some uncommon power from that position, although the team’s defense up the middle will likely suffer.

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