Cardinals: Five players under the most pressure entering the 2023 season
After finding himself in trade negotiations this off-season, Nolan Gorman has quickly fallen down the pecking order internally behind guys like Brendan Donovan and Lars Nootbaar. Before the 2022 season, this would have been unthinkable. But after breakouts from Donovan and Nootbaar, paired with a more quiet start to his big league career from Gorman, the second baseman is facing a huge year in his career already.
Don't read this as me saying Gorman is on the verge of being a bust. He is just 22 years old and has just 283 major league at-bats, and has shown plenty of potential, even in that brief MLB stint, as a guy who can mash for years to come. Gorman had 30 HRs last year in 132 games across Triple-A and the majors and added another 18 doubles on top of that. His .721 OPS during his rookie year was 16th among qualified rookies, and that was even after an extremely cold stretch to end his regular season stint in St. Louis.
Gorman deserves every opportunity to show why he was one of the top prospects in baseball, but there will be plenty of competition that could make that difficult for him. Whoever ends up being the club's fourth outfielder will fight for DH appearances with Gorman and Juan Yepez. Second base is his clearest path to playing time on the field, but Donovan will draw a lot of starts there as well. Gorman will likely need to do more than just rebound for him to receive consistent playing time.
Cutting down on strikeouts, proving he has value against left-handed pitching, showing consistent power, and becoming an average defensive second baseman would go a long way toward him becoming a mainstay in the Cardinals lineup for years to come. If he does not take his game to the next level in 2023, it does not mean he will not in the new few seasons, but it could mean he is used in a deal to acquire a starting pitcher when one becomes available.