7 players who will be crucial to the Cardinals' success in 2024

A successful 2024 campaign hinges on these players' abilities to perform at their highest levels.

St. Louis Cardinals v Cincinnati Reds
St. Louis Cardinals v Cincinnati Reds / Jeff Dean/GettyImages
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Ryan Helsley

Ryan Helsley has been one of the best relievers in baseball since he arrived in 2019. His transition to the team's closing role in 2022 pushed him to new heights. His high-90s 4-seamer is one of the best in the league, and he has been able to work his plus slider off the heater well in his career. He was voted to his first and only All-Star Game in 2022.

In 2022, Helsley was literally the best pitcher at striking batters out. His 39.3% K rate that year was in the top 1% of the league. Helsley finished 2022 with a minuscule 1.25 ERA, 2.34 FIP, 0.742 WHIP, and a 4.70 K/BB rate in 64.2 innings across fifty-four appearances. Helsley also racked up nineteen saves. He blew four saves, but he held seven other games in check.

Last year, Ryan Helsley injured his forearm in late June, limiting him to only 36.2 innings pitched. His 2.45 ERA was inflated compared to his 2022 ERA, but regression was to be expected. A 2.45 ERA for your closer is still quite strong. Helsley remained near the top of the league in strikeout rate (35.6%), but he experienced some control issues, as his walk rate increased to 11.6%.

Ryan Helsley's health and return to peak form is imperative for a Cardinals' bullpen that lacks some depth. Assurance and dependability out of the back end of a bullpen are two of the determinative factors of a successful team. If Ryan Helsley is healthy and dealing next year, the team should see improvements.