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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Willson Contreras

Willson Contreras was handed one of the largest free agent contracts in franchise history last year when he signed a five-year, $87.5 million deal. His goal of replacing Yadier Molina was virtually unattainable, but he gave it his best effort.

Contreras has never been known as a stalwart defensively. He is excellent at throwing runners out, and his blocking skills are above average, but he has consistently received negative reviews on his game-calling and framing abilities, two skills that are essential for catchers, particularly catchers on a roster that has been blessed with Yadier Molina behind the plate for nearly two decades. Yadi's inclusion on the coaching staff should benefit Contreras as well.

Contreras's offensive game was the best on the team last year. His 124 OPS+ was the best on the team last year. Contreras's ability to stay level-headed even after being blind-sided by his removal from behind the plate is quite telling. The veteran's ability to maintain offensive production after being told he isn't good enough to be a catcher by his own teammates is impressive.

Should Willson Contreras become more familiar with the starting staff next year while maintaining his offensive output, the Cardinals will have themselves a good catcher who can hit in the middle of the lineup, something they haven't had since Yadi's peak years nearly a decade ago. Contreras's jovial personality is also key for a clubhouse that needs some levity.