5 Cardinals players most likely to have a breakout season in 2023
By Eric Treuden
Nootbaar, who recently became the most famous baseball player in Japan, is an obvious choice here. He rose to prominence on the national stage when he became the first ever player not born in Japan to represent the country in the World Baseball Classic.
In seven games there, he recorded seven hits in 26 at-bats, scoring seven runs while driving in four of his own. He also walked (six) as many times as he struck out, stole two bases, and had a .269 batting average.
Last year was Nootbaar's first full season of big league games. He showed off impressive gap power and patience at the plate while hitting 14 home runs in 108 games. His .228 batting average may turn some fans off of his game, but his 126 OPS+ (26 percent above league average) suggests that he was much more valuable than the average says he was.
"Noot" made it into five spring contests for the Cardinals and had a .300 average with two runs scored and one run driven in. He also made it into the Opening Day game against the Blue Jays, going one-for-six with a run scored, before jamming his thumb while diving into third base. He is currently on the injured list but is an excellent candidate to do great things for the Cardinals this year and beyond.