Ben Remis (@BenRemis on Twitter)
MVP: Nolan Arenado
Toy Story, Lord of the Rings, and The Godfather– all fantastic films, sure. But then you see the sequel. Well, get ready to add Nolan Arenado in St. Louis to that exclusive list.
As tempting as it was for me to force Yadier Molina or Albert Pujols into this spot, the MVP of this team has to be the man at the hot corner. Defense, offense, leadership– this guy does it all.
Cy Young: Adam Wainwright
Who else? It is a little worrisome to have a 40-year starter projected as the best pitcher on a team contending for the playoffs. Especially with Jack Flaherty starting the year on the IL, there is no doubt that Adam Wainwright has to carry this pitching staff.
All that being said, I’m confident that this isn’t a Cy Young by default. Wainwright had one of his best years last year, and there’s no reason to believe he can’t duplicate that success one more time.
X-Factor: Jordan Hicks
I once ranked Jordan Hicks as the 3rd most valuable Cardinal in my off-season future value rankings. Unfortunately, a series of injuries has limited the hardest-throwing pitcher in baseball. If Jordan Hicks is back, however, then the Cardinals once again have the ultimate weapon on the mound.
Hicks is a starter now. Not sure how that will work out when Jack Flaherty comes back (six-man rotation I guess?), but only time will tell what the true ceiling is for the talented young flamethrower.
Two-sentence team evaluation: Will the young, rising talent mesh well with the old guard and echo 2011, or is this year just a set-up for 2023? How do we define success for a team celebrating the careers of three generational players?
Bold prediction: Dylan Carlson finishes top 10 in MVP voting
Here’s a quick player comparison for you:
Player A rookie season: #1 prospect in baseball, .272/.339/.433, 15 home runs, 106 OPS+, 6th in rookie of the year voting.
Player B rookie season: #14 prospect in baseball, .266/.343/.437, 18 home runs, 117 OPS+, 3rd in rookie of the year voting
Player A second full season: .311/.401/.601, 48 home runs, 169 OPS+, 2nd in MVP voting.
Well, Vlad Guerrero Jr. is Player A (2020 was ignored, because those 60 games were really weird). I’m not saying that Player B is a generational talent like Vladdy, but the Dylan Carlson breakout season is upon us. Remember how excited we were for his debut?
We’re all excited to see the continued success of Tyler O’Neill and Harrison Bader, but by the end of this year, Carlson will be the best outfielder in St. Louis. In fact, I’ll double-down on my bold prediction: both Arenado and Carlson will finish in the top 10 in MVP voting, with one of them in the top three.