Could Paul DeJong shock the baseball world with a comeback season?
DeJong has had significant lapses at the plate that have caused his demotion to the minor leagues, making him a target of ire from a fanbase very frustrated that he's not putting up big numbers.
While it's not for lack of trying, it could be a case of the young baseball player getting into his head too much—a case of overthinking things.
During the Cardinals Winter Warmup, DeJong said that he's pinpointed some of his issues and implemented an approach to slow things down to be more present at the plate. DeJong said he'd worked much of the offseason with new assistance hitting coach Daniel Nicolaisen.
DeJong, a good defender, was replaced at shortstop by Tommy Edman. He got the turn at shortstop while the organization wanted to see what they had in prospect Nolan Gorman and were met with the stellar play of super utility Gold Glover Brendan Donovan.
Spring Training will be the perfect opportunity for DeJong to show off what he has learned from Nicolaisen and create a little competition in the middle infield. This will be the final year of his six-year contract worth $26 million. If he can impress during this season, he has a couple of club option seasons. This season is significant for DeJong's future with the Cardinals, and even within the league.
How will Willson Contreras adapt to his new team?
The biggest question going into spring will be how Contreras and the pitching staff adapt to one another. The pitching staff was led for close to 20 seasons by Yadier Molina. Contreras comes to the Cardinals after growing up in the Cubs organization.
Contreras was the organization's primary get this offseason after the retirement of Molina. John Mozeliak, Cardinals president of baseball operations, wanted to get the best available catcher on the market to replace the legend that is Molina. Mozeliak, manager Oli Marmol, Molina, and the pitching staff agree the team got what they needed in Contreras, as he was signed to a 5-year contract worth $87.5 million.
While catching will be Contreras's primary role, he will also work with Andrew Knizner and Ivan Herrera to find a steady backup. While in seasons past, Molina was not big on taking days off, making the back-up catching role dull. Contreras may be asked to help the team by being a designated hitter for the club. It will not only allow him to rest his knees while contributing with his bat, but we will also see how Knziner and/or Herrera step up to take on this opportunity. This could be huge later on in the season.
Contreras and his impact on the team will be a huge story to watch for this Spring. It should be fun!