The St. Louis Cardinals enter 2022 with questions about their middle infield once again. How will the club best maximize their talent at these positions?
One of the biggest question marks surrounding the 2022 St. Louis Cardinals is how they will handle their middle infield. 2021 ushered in Tommy Edman’s first full season at second base, and the club overcame the struggles of Paul DeJong and streaky Edmundo Sosa at the shortstop position. But how will the club utilize their talent at second base and short stop in the New Year?
Going into the 2021 season, the Cardinals rolled the dice and allowed fan favorite Kolten Wong to sign with the Brewers, dawning a new era in the Cardinals middle infield. Edman, who replaced him at second base, showed no regression defensively, taking the 2021 Gold Glove award. While it may seem obvious that Edman would remain the club’s everyday second baseman, there are two questions that may prompt some creativity from manager Oli Marmol’s lineup construction.
The first surrounds the shortstop position. After an All-Star appearance in 2019 where he clubbed over 30 home runs and doubles respectively, DeJong has followed that up with two disappointing seasons at the plate. DeJong defenders can point to a pandemic shortened 2020 and injury riddled 2021 as to blame, but it is fair to question the front office’s confidence in a player who has not produced the last two seasons.
DeJong face internal competition in 2021 though, as Edmundo Sosa took the added playing time to turn in some solid splits (.262/.338/.402) while providing a spark to the bottom of the lineup down the stretch. Having Sosa as safety net provides a bit of optimism for the shortstop position, but it would be surprising if both DeJong and Sosa don’t have short leashes with the up and coming talent St. Louis has in the minors.
Which brings me to my next point. Where does top prospect Nolan Gorman fits into the equation? Gorman boasts a bat loaded with potential and will likely make the Opening Day roster or debut very early in the season. After acquiring Nolan Arenado last offseason, Gorman spent the 2021 season as a second baseman, making him an immediate option for the Cardinals at second or DH this coming season.
The Cardinals should be eager to get him into the lineup, as he boasts left-handed power that the club has been missing in recent years. But with Arenado holding down third and Edman currently at second, as well as the DH being a likely destination for Juan Yepez, the club will need to be intentional about getting Gorman at bats.
The most likely scenario for the 2022 Cardinals is DeJong and Sosa splitting time at shortstop and Edman back at second to begin the year. While this may be frustrating to fans, it seems like the safest bet based on how the club has been operating.
By the time late summer rolls around though, it seems very likely that the Cardinals best, and maybe even everyday lineup, will see Edman shift over to shortstop and Gorman slide in at second base. While it may seem odd to move the position of a Gold Glover, the value of Gorman’s bat at second base is far too promising to stifle if he is as good as advertised.
This may make one of Edmundo Sosa or Paul DeJong expendable by midseason. With how Brendan Donovan broke out in 2021, you may even see him knock one of these guys off the roster before a trade could even occur.
The best case scenario for St. Louis is a bounce back season from DeJong and continued development from their other infielders, but the club has many different pieces they can tinker with depending on how the season goes. There is a world where this patience with roster construction pays huge dividends for the club, but you may also see a frustrating summer of rotating pieces until some of them click.
While there is still a chance the club could acquire a shortstop before the season begins, it appears much more likely that we will see another season of musical chairs down the middle.