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.