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
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Jordan Walker

Perhaps one of the most important players on next year's roster is Jordan Walker. For how unfair as it may be, there is a lot of pressure on the towering sophomore outfielder. Jordan Walker was a top-three prospect in all of baseball prior to his debut last year, and his bat lived up to the hype. While his debut may have been a bit premature, he handled the situation with class.

Jordan Walker's calling card is his offensive game. Among qualified rookies last year, Walker ranked 16th in wRC+, 12th in home runs, 13th in xwOBA, and 14th in total offensive output according to FanGraphs. ZiPS projections for next year project him to be second on the team in wRC+, but his 80th percentile projection has him as a better offensive player than other players such as Luis Robert Jr., Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt, Kyle Schwarber, and Adolis Garcia.

For as good as Jordan Walker is as a batter, he is equally below average defensively. His struggles in the outfield aren't for a lack of effort, however; the young outfielder has sought help from some of the best to have ever played in the grass. Walker just wasn't able to make huge strides in his first year. Learning a new position at the highest level of baseball probably isn't ideal for a rookie, but he handled it admirably. Walker's -21.7 defensive rating on FanGraphs was far and away the worst for all qualified rookies.

There are two ways in which Jordan Walker is one of the most important players for next year's team. First, he must continue to improve offensively. This isn't much of a concern, as he has always had a highly-ranked bat tool. Second, Walker has to become serviceable in the outfield. He doesn't need to magically become a positive defender in right field, but he should at least be less awful in the grass. It's likely that someone with his speed and arm strength can improve with time, but his defensive growth is essential to a team that is looking to get back to its old ways on that side of the ball.