Cardinals: How St. Louis should structure their roster for playoffs
By Josh Jacobs
The Cardinals have a wealth of talent on their roster, who makes the cut when it comes to October?
The St. Louis Cardinals have been on a tear for the month of August, and have now become legit contenders for the National League pennant. For most of the regular season, the narrative has been whether the Cardinals have enough talent to make the postseason, but now the conversation has shifted to who gives the club the best chance to win a World Series.
With various players finding their strides this month, others hitting slumps, and more returning from injury, one has to wonder what the best roster is for the Cardinals entering the postseason? Who should be in the starting lineup against right and left-handed pitching? Who makes the rotation? Which arms will be carried in the bullpen?
Here is how I would structure the Cardinals roster entering the 2022 postseason.
Lineup against right-handed pitching
RF Lars Nootbaar
LF Brendan Donovan
1B Paul Goldschmidt
3B Nolan Arenado
CF Tyler O’Neill
DH Corey Dickerson
2B Nolan Gorman
C Yadier Molina
SS Tommy Edman
Bench: Albert Pujols, Dylan Carlson, Paul DeJong, Jordan Walker, and Andrew Knizner.
One of the biggest question marks for St. Louis this season has been their best lineup versus right handed pitching. They have a lot of guys who can mash against left handed pitching, but many of their hitters had not found the same success against righties.
During the last 30 games though, Nootbaar and Donovan have risen to the surface as the perfect 1-2 hitters for their lineup against right handed pitching, posting OBPs of .413 and .426, respectively. O’Neill and Dickerson have caught fire lately as well, giving the Cardinals a really strong 1-6 against right handers.
Carlson and DeJong are the odd men out of this lineup. Although the club values Carlson’s elite defense, his .290 OBP against right handed pitching is just not good enough, and needs to be relegated to the bench. Gorman provides elite power from 2nd base, while DeJong has struggled again as of late. Shifting Tommy to shortstop gives the Cardinals their best possible lineup here.
Surrounding Goldschmidt and Arenado with these players gives the Cardinals a lineup that can put up runs in a hurry. As the game goes along, manager Oli Marmol can play matchups, should the opposing team choose to counter with any left handed relievers.
One major called up I would make is in the form of Jordan Walker. Walker is knocking at the door of a big league promotion, and could provide St. Louis another option off the bench to pinch hit in different matchups. Clubs around baseball are calling up their top prospects for the postseason push, and with one of the rotation arms joining the bullpen, the club could carry one less reliever in favor of Walker without actually penalizing the depth there.
If you think this option is unrealistic, Juan Yepez, who does not carry the same pedigree as Walker, made the Cardinals postseason roster last year for similar reasons.
The bench for this lineup would consist of Carlson, DeJong, Pujols, Walker, and Knizner. If left handers are brought into the game, Pujols, Carlson, or Walker could see pinch hit opportunities. Carrying five position players on the bench gives Marmol the flexibility to play matchups throughout the game, rather than wait till the last few innings.