5 Cardinals players who could define the team's direction entering Spring Training

Just days before Spring Training kicks off for the 2024 season, the St. Louis Cardinals still have questions to answer.

Masyn Winn
Masyn Winn / Joe Puetz/GettyImages
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Willson Contreras could define the Cardinals' direction in 2024

Contreras was looking forward to following in the footsteps of legendary Yadier Molina to become the Cardinals' everyday catcher. While he was incredibly professional in the face of his new manager and pitching staff throwing him under the bus for not being Molina, he stepped up and powered through.

This season, Contreras will have a whole new pitching staff to get to know and work with. This time he will have Molina, who is a special assistant to John Mozeliak, available to him during Spring Training and beyond.

Despite intense drama, Contreras was one of the brightest spots for the Cardinals in 2023. He hit .264/.358/.467 with an OPS of .826. He scored 27 doubles, 20 home runs, 55 runs, and 67 RBIs.

If Contreras can build upon his work in 2023 and make the improvements expected from working with Molina and the new staff, he should be a key to the Cardinals' success in 2024.

Lars Nootbaar could define the Cardinals' direction in 2024

Since last year, Lars Nootbaar has gained international star status since his time with Team Japan in the World Baseball Classic and being named GQ Japan's Man of the Year.

In 2023 Nootbaar hit .261/.367/.418 with an OPS of .784. He scored 23 doubles, one triple, 14 home runs, 74 runs, and 46 RBI.

It will be fun to watch how this carries over to 2024. He's earned favored status amongst the fans, teammates, and management. After bouncing to different positions in the outfield and lineup, he has secured the left-field spot of defense and a lead-off position. While he fell victim to injury, like much of the team in 2023, he has worked this offseason to improve at the plate.

As long as Nootbaar stays healthy, he will be essential to the Cardinals' success in 2024.