5 former Cardinals players who have been outstanding this season

The Cardinals have a long history of letting talented players leave the franchise. Here are five former players who are excelling in 2024.
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James Naile has been outstanding this season (well, kind of)

After a lackluster stint with the Cardinals in 2022 and 2023, James Naile's contract was sold to the Kia Tigers of the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO). At age 30, Naile would likely not find much playing time with the Major League club as he'd been designated for assignment and then outrighted to Triple-A at the start of 2023. Now, in the Asian leagues where many players such as Miles Mikolas and Erick Fedde go to reinvent themselves, the 31-year-old might've done just that.

In a completely different baseball culture and a slightly different baseball than MLB with smaller and higher seams, Naile needed to make an adjustment to find success. In his first month, he did just that, winning April Player of the Month and leading the league with a 1.09 ERA. He's struggled slightly more recently, but his 2.26 ERA is still elite for the Korean league. He's on pace for similar numbers as current White Sox starter and 2023 KBO MVP Erick Fedde, but it remains to be seen if he can keep it up and win the award.

Unlike others on this list, James Naile's success story is not a cautionary tale of the Cardinals letting top-tier talent get away. They've done that many times in the past, but Naile had no place on the Major League roster. Naile himself requested to be released by the Cardinals and pursue opportunities overseas as a starter, knowing he'd get limited chances, likely wallowing in the Minor Leagues. While Fedde and former Cardinal Kwang-Hyun Kim have found success going from the KBO to MLB, most Korean talent doesn't translate.

Many, such as Miles Mikolas, learn to pitch differently in Asia and return as much improved arms. Perhaps Naile will do the same and return to Major League Baseball as a serviceable starter. If he does, Cardinals fans should be happy for the native St. Louisan rather than lament what could've been in St. Louis.

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