St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Lars Nootbaar has an A-plus name and, more recently, an A-plus game.
Chants of “Noooot!” have rained down more frequently at Busch Stadium over the past month as St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Lars Nootbaar has shown a propensity to get on base.
Since July 1, Nootbaar has been a sabermetrician’s dream with a 207 wRC+ statistic (average is 100), and he carries an eye-catching batting line of .364/.463/.636. His chase percentage is also outstanding at just over 19% for the season, showing that Nootbaar is a disciplined hitter who has been able to do damage to the pitches he swings at over the past month.
This kind of batter’s eye often points to sustained success and can’t be called a fluke. The recently departed Edmundo Sosa, whose 2021 breakout seems to be an aberration, had a chase rate over 34% last year, which screamed regression in 2022 because pitchers could exploit him far more easily than they can Nootbaar.
The exit velocity for Nootbaar is sparkling as well: It’s in the 79th percentile with a 90.5 mph average. To make a Sosa comparison again, Sosa’s exit velocity in 2021 averaged only 86.7 mph. Nootbaar is no slouch on defense either, as his above-average speed helps him run down balls in right field. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him also receive opportunities in center field when Dylan Carlson needs a rest.
With Harrison Bader now in pinstripes, Nootbaar should have a bigger role on the team, and all the stats are saying he has the ability to run with it.
However, I am not opposed to using Nootbaar as a trade piece in the offseason if the Cardinals acquire more outfield talent, and while his trade value will obviously increase if he continues this fine July performance, that’s not the main reason I’d be OK with dangling him tantalizingly over other teams.
Nootbaar’s fan-favorite status is what would make him painful to trade, but it’s also what could add to his value. The Cardinals are not hurting in attendance, but for teams such as the Oakland Athletics or the Tampa Bay Rays, the opportunity to boost their paltry attendance can’t be overlooked.
Players who emerge as cult favorites are undeniably an asset to their teams’ ticket sales, as fans can’t resist monosyllabic surnames with long “oo” diagraph sounds in the middle. Combine that with the possibility of namesake energy bars and pun-worthy clothes, and Nootbaar would be worth far more than what he does on the field, which is already substantial.
Obviously, I would love for Nootbaar to remain a Cardinal if he keeps up this kind of production, but there is reason to believe that he can pull above his weight when it comes to a return. Who says names don’t matter?