3. Brendan Donovan
When picking a third player that I think the Cardinals should extend right now, it was down to Nolan Gorman and Donovan for me, it wasn't an easy decision, but I would give the slight edge to Donovan. What more can you say about Brendan Donovan? He had a similar pathway as Nootbaar did as neither was drafted all that high (Donovan was a 7th-round pick in 2018 and Nootbaar an 8th-round pick in the same year) but they made their way to the big leagues in just 2 full minor league seasons.
2022 was a phenomenal rookie season for Donovan, he had a .281/.394/.379 slash line with a 124 OPS+ (League average is 100) and he won the first-ever utility gold glove award. He was also a finalist for the NL Rookie of the Year, marking the second consecutive season where the Cardinals had a Rookie of the Year finalist (Dylan Carlson 2021).
Despite the excellent campaign, Donovan didn't settle and he added on to his game. He started to hit the ball in the air more, generating more power while still hitting for average and getting on base. Donovan hit 5 home runs in 2022, he hit 11 in 2023 in 31 fewer games, and his average went up 3 points, he was able to add to his game without sacrificing any other trait.
So why lock him up? Donovan has proved his worth to the Cardinals in such a short time, the team was hurt severely when he had season-ending flexor tendon surgery in August as he was the most clutch hitter on the team last year in a season where the Cardinals clearly lacked the clutch gene. He is the perfect lead-off hitter hitting in front of Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado to set the table for them, and it's been reported that he's "emerging" as a leader in the Cardinals clubhouse. Brendan Donovan is a keeper.