5 things that would need to happen for the Cardinals to compete for the World Series

The Cardinals are not in the conversation of World Series contenders right now, but what would have to happen to get them there?

San Diego Padres v St. Louis Cardinals
San Diego Padres v St. Louis Cardinals / Joe Puetz/GettyImages
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#1 - The offense needs to be truly elite

Starting off this list is the thing that is most likely to happen and is key for them to be a contender this year as well: the Cardinals offense must be among the best in baseball in 2024.

If you ask most Cardinals fans, they'll tell you the offense was mostly disappointing in 2024, and while the end-of-the-season numbers support that feeling, the Cardinals' offensive success before the trade deadline in 2023 has flown under the radar. Check out how the Cardinals ranked in major offensive categories before and after July 29th, the final game Brendan Donovan played in, and when they started trading off multiple pieces from the club.

Offensive Ranking in MLB

Through July 29th

After July 29th

wRC+

7th

20th

OBP

7th

20th

SLG

7th

23rd

wOBA

7th

10th

The Cardinals ranked top-7 in some of the most important measures of offensive success in today's game before they sold at the deadline and many of their regular players began hitting the injured list again, so it's pretty easy to see how they are a top-7 unit once again without any improvements. But now consider their ceiling with some of those baked in...

Jordan Walker, Nolan Gorman, Brendan Donovan, and Lars Nootbaar all showed the ability to be tremendous hitters during the season.

- Walker was a top-40 hitter in baseball after he was called back up from Memphis in June.
- Gorman was a top-20 hitter the entire season outside of his historically bad month of May.
- Nootbaar, when healthy was one of the better hitters in baseball.
- Donovan was one of the best 20 hitters in baseball after making a key adjustment to his approach for a 10-week stretch before his season-ending injury.

You can check my in-depth breakdowns of these numbers in my ranking of the 10 most valuable Cardinals' young position players.

Each of those guys showed success for sustained stretches during the 2023 season, but each of them missed significant chunks of the season for various reasons.

- Walker played in just 117 games due to his May demotion.
- Gorman battled back issues and didn't start against lefties to begin the year, playing in just 119 games
- Nootbaar hit the Injured List three times during the year, two of those times due to freak injuries, playing in just 117 games.
- Donovan missed almost the entire second half due to season-ending elbow surgery, playing in just 95 games.

Those four key bats, on average, missed 30% of the Cardinals' games in 2023. If the Cardinals are getting those four in their lineup on a close to everyday basis in 2024, expect a major step forward for the offense as a whole. Each of those guys is entering their second or third full big-league season, so natural progression can add to that improvement as well.

And let's not forget Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt, both of whom had down years last year. Are either guaranteed to bounce back? Nope. But if either or both do, we saw what kind of impact they could have in 2022.

It's a rose-colored glasses take to believe everything will go right with the offense in 2024 but to be fair, it felt like everything that could have gone wrong in 2023 did for that group. The reason I have so much optimism for this group in 2024 is that there are so many different players who can propel the offense. They just need a few of those things to happen for the offense to be a top-5 unit in baseball.