5 Cardinals already playing themselves into bigger roles in 2024

While the season may be lost, each game the Cardinals play this year is an opportunity for players to prove their value, and these five guys are showing theirs.
Colorado Rockies v St. Louis Cardinals
Colorado Rockies v St. Louis Cardinals / Joe Puetz/GettyImages
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Alec Burleson

Here are the Cardinals wRC+ leaders since the beginning of the second half.

1. Lars Nootbaar - 183 wRC+ (24 G)

2. Nolan Gorman - 177 wRC+ (20 G)

3. Alec Burleson - 159 wRC+ (21 G)

While it's not a huge sample size, even expanding it to the beginning of July puts Burleson at a 139 wRC+, and even extending that time frame to the beginning of June has him at a 112 wRC+.

So what does that all mean? Since June, Burleson is 12% above league average at the plate, 39% since the beginning of July, and a whopping 59% since the second half began. Remember how the Cardinals talked early this season about the underlying metrics showing Burley was getting unlucky? Well, the numbers are finally showing what the Cardinals were seeing.

Burleson only has 308 plate appearances at the big league level since he debuted last season, and he has continued to take real strides at the plate. All he did was hit since being drafted in 2020 and has provided the Cardinals with another legit bat for their lineup.

Do I expect Burleson to be a 159 wRC+ player now? No. Do I think a 139 wRC+ is even a fair expectation? No. But do I expect Burleson to be between a 115-130 wRC+ in 2024 at this rate? Yes, I do. That kind of production from the left side of the plate is a real weapon to have in your lineup and is why I think St. Louis is continuing to find opportunities for him.

Could I see the Cardinals using Burleson's trade value as a part of their deal to acquire a starter this offseason? Sure. But I also think they'll be hesitant to move off him when he could be a major contributor from the corner outfield spots, DH, and first base next season.

Some have harped on his defense, but it's actually a pretty lazy take to say he is a bad defender. He's never going to be a stud out there, but he can be league average, and that plays with the kind of bat he has. For context, his -1 DRS on the season is tied with Tyler O'Neill, is only slightly behind Dylan Carlson and Tommy Edman, who are each at 1 DRS and is light years ahead of Jordan Walker who is sitting at a -16 DRS on the season.

If you are choosing to be patient with Walker's defense, then there is zero reason to be annoyed by Burleson's defense. It's time Burleson gets some of the love he deserves as a legit up-and-coming player for St. Louis.