Solutions to the St Louis Cardinals’ problems can be found in Memphis

MEMPHIS, UNITED STATES - 2021/08/01: The front entrance to Auto Zone Park in Memphis.Auto Zone Park is a Minor League Baseball stadium located in downtown Memphis. It is the home of the Memphis Redbirds. (Photo by Kevin Langley/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
MEMPHIS, UNITED STATES - 2021/08/01: The front entrance to Auto Zone Park in Memphis.Auto Zone Park is a Minor League Baseball stadium located in downtown Memphis. It is the home of the Memphis Redbirds. (Photo by Kevin Langley/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images) /

The 10-7 St. Louis Cardinals have had both bright spots and low moments early in the 2022 season. The early success of the bullpen, league-best base running, mostly stellar defense, and hot bats like Nolan Arenado and Tommy Edman have given fans reasons to be excited about the club.

The early struggles of players like Paul Goldschmidt, Yadier Molina, and others as well as throwing away various games have given these same fans reasons to pull their hair out.

While most of the signs point to success this year, there are two glaring issues with specific spots on this club: shortstop and the fifth starter role.

At shortstop, Paul DeJong has gotten off to an ice cold start, slashing .133/.235/.244 with 19 strikeouts in 51 plate appearances. His strikeout rate of 37% has been glaring, but has become even more glaring as he has only had six hits on the year. In an even smaller sample size, Edmundo Sosa has done little to take the job over, slashing .211/.286/.211 with nine SO in 21 PA, with a surprisingly higher strikeout rate of 43%.

Shortstop has been practically an automatic out and rally stopper thus far.

Although there has been inconsistency among Wainwright, Mikolas, Hudson, and Matz, so far the “Opener” experience with Jordan Hicks has not produced a ton of results. In four games, including two starts, Hicks has an ERA of 3.00 and WHIP of 1.22 while only getting through nine innings of work.

Hicks has not been bad by any means, but the Cardinals rotation as a whole ranks bottom 10 in baseball with only 79-2/3 innings pitched in 17 games, averaging just 4-2/3 innings per start.

Nolan Gorman and Matthew Liberatore are producing for Cardinals’ Triple-A affiliate

Luckily for the Cardinals, Nolan Gorman and Matthew Liberatore are producing for Triple-A Memphis and ready to make the jump to the major leagues.

Gorman may be off to the best start in all of the minor leagues this year, slashing .349/.397/.833 with 10 home runs, 15 RBI, and 22 strikeouts while coming off of a 4-5 performance where he went deep twice against Durham. The Cardinals’ No. 2 prospect is on fire right now, and could be called up to St. Louis at any moment.

The main concerns associated with Gorman at the moment are his strikeouts and defense. His 30% strikeout rate is a hole in his game for sure, but if he’s producing an OPS of 1.200+, you take that any day, especially when he’d be replacing a player with a higher strikeout rate that has little production at all in DeJong.

Many of the leagues’ best hitters have a strikeout rate ranging from 27-32% so far this season, and even if Gorman’s remains high in the majors, his ability to do damage cannot be kept in the minors. His OPS would rank second in baseball currently behind Trout, and even if that were to drop .400 points into the .800s, he’d still be among the top 50 in baseball.

Gorman’s defense cannot compare to Tommy Edman’s or even Paul DeJong’s but the value his bat carries for this lineup far outweighs any drop off in that department. Tommy Edman can slide over the shortstop on days Gorman is playing second base, and the Cardinal’s league best defense will only take a slight hit.

This is not a case of a slight offensive upgrade for a huge defensive downgrade. This is an opportunity to add a powerful left handed bat to a lineup that the Cardinals have to do.

For Matthew Liberatore, although his numbers aren’t as eye popping as Gorman, he has proven he is ready to take the next step and contribute on the big league club. Through four starts this year, he is 2-2 with an ERA of 4.22, 21 IP, 21 K, and 1.03 WHIP. In his most recent start for Memphis, Liberatore went 7 shutout innings, allowing just 2 hits and striking out 9 batters. 

The true cause for concern at the moment for Liberatore is how many home runs he has allowed, four already this season. Opponents have an OBP of just .274 against him and his K/9  is at 11.39, which both would rank among some of the best in the majors at the moment.

Matthew Liberatore does not need to be an ace for the Cardinals. Providing quality innings for the rotation would allow Hicks to slot back into one of the best performing bullpens in the league so far this year, and would ideally get more innings out of the rotation to save some of those arms.

Between him and the other four starters in the rotation, the bullpen can make up for some off games between the bunch as they come along.

The Cardinals will most likely need to make a few roster moves via trade as the season goes on, but Nolan Gorman and Matthew Liberatore are already perfect fits to fill some of there biggest needs at the moment.

It is not realistic to expect them both to be world beaters out of the gate, but they have proven they have enough talent to produce at a level that would immediately raise all areas of the ballclub. It is time for Gorman and Liberatore to debut in St. Louis.