No. 4 Lars Nootbaar
This was the easiest choice on the rankings. Drafted in the 8th round in 2018, Lars Nootbaar was never heralded as a top prospect, and you would even be hard pressed to find organization rankings that had him in the Cardinals Top 30 before the 2021 season.
The 2019 minor league season saw Nootbaar begin to prove he had some potential, as he posted .264/.349/.364 splits across the A and AA levels. After the 2020 minor league season was scraped, Noot put up .304/.404./.496 splits at AAA Memphis before becoming the backup outfielder on the St. Louis roster.
Across 124 plate appearances in his first year in the majors, the 24-year-old hit .239/.317/.422 with nine extra-base hits and a slightly above league average OPS+ of 105. The month of August is where he really showed out, where in 49 plate appearances, Lars went .318/.388/.591 with an OPS+ of 162.
It is difficult to gauge the bat of Nootbaar in such few plate appearances, but an immediate area of improvement that will need to occur is against right-handed pitching, where his .230/.316/.391 slashline has room for improvement. Although a very small sample size, his performance against left-handed pitching was very encouraging.
Nootbaar proved to be an exciting defender at times, making him an awesome backup option for the Cardinals elite defensive outfield. His has the ability to play all three outfield positions, but is best situated in the corners. He won’t steal many bags but is an average baserunner as well.
Nootbaar could continue his rise next year and become someone that the other three guys on this list really have to worry about stealing their playing time, but odds are he will project as the No. 4 outfielder. He proved he has the potential to start on various big league clubs, but on a contender like the Cardinals, he is best situated as the fourth outfielder and lefty bat of the bench.