Las Nootbaar is on this list for a different reason than the other four. Nootbaar has gone from a no-name prospect and fun fourth outfielder to one of the rising stars in today's game in just seven months. This has mostly happened due to a hot stretch during the second half of the 2022 season and some incredible advanced metrics related to his batted ball data and plate discipline. Nootbaar has all of the tools to be a star, but will he?
It's one thing to perform at a high level with no expectations, it's a whole other thing to have an organization, fan base, and now national media watching you intently. Nootbaar's hype has gotten a bit out of control at times, but that's not to say the new expectations are not warranted. He's not a top outfielder in the game right now, but he sure could be if he continues trendy upwards.
After posting a 139 OPS+ during the second half last year, the organization seems to view Nootbaar as their best outfielder at the moment. I wrote a piece recently diving deep into the reasons why the rest of the baseball world is catching on to Nootbaar, and I expect the 25-year-old to build upon that this coming season.
Although Nootbaar seems to have the leg up in the outfield competition, like O'Neill and Carlson, Nootbaar will have to continue to perform to maintain that spot. There is a very real scenario where Walker, O'Neill, and Carlson end up as the Cardinals' starting outfield, and Alec Burleson may even push to be a part of that group as well. Nootbaar seems like a guy built for big expectations. With how much he has been hyped by fans and media this off-season though, the pressure is certainly cooking for Nootbaar.