Could Richie Palacios force his way into the Cardinals' plans for 2024?

No, I'm not ready to buy into Richie Palacios as a future impact player, but his recent surge should pique the Cardinals' interest in his future.
St. Louis Cardinals v Pittsburgh Pirates
St. Louis Cardinals v Pittsburgh Pirates / Justin K. Aller/GettyImages
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When Richie Palacios got called up to the St. Louis Cardinals, there was very little excitement around him. Palacios had a very unceremonious debut with the Guardians last year, and was viewed as a depth piece for St. Louis, not someone you'd really ever roster outside of having a major injury bug.

Instead of just being another name on the roster, Palacios has come out and taken advantage of every opportunity he has received, slashing .389/.421/.667 with his first big league home run and seven RBIs in his first seven games for the Cardinals. He flashed some great plays with his glove as well, showing value in all facets of the game.

It can be easy to get your expectations too high with a player like Palacios, but then again, sometimes players come out of nowhere and end up being big parts of your club's future.

For every Randy Arozarena or Lars Nootbaar, there is a Jeremy Hazelbaker, who is lightning in a bottle for a short time and then fades out of everyone's memory other than a fun Immaculate Grid answer. Let's not be too quick to make Palacios out to be a future stud outfielder who got away from St. Louis, but it's also fair to wonder if he can be more than just a quick fad.

A couple of cold weeks in St. Louis and none of this even matters, but what if Palacios plays well down the stretch? What could that do for this Cardinals club that already has so many question marks in their outfield?

Going into 2024, Lars Nootbaar and Jordan Walker are locks to be in their outfield. Brendan Donovan will likely see time all over the place, but may oftentimes find himself in left field with how great his bat has been for the Cardinals. Assuming they are both on the roster next year, Tommy Edman and Alec Burleson will get time out there as well. What Palacios could do for the Cardinals is make Tyler O'Neill and Dylan Carlson even more expendable.

No, not because I think he has the same ceiling as them, but because if the Cardinals already have five outfielders ahead of them on the depth chart, the return that O'Neill and Carlson could bring St. Louis back in a trade is likely worth more than them sitting on the bench, waiting for injuries to happen. Palacios can be a guy that steps into their 4th or 5th outfielder role when those do happen.

The upside that both O'Neill and Carlson have also makes it so that the Cardinals could deal one of those other names, like Edman, Burleson, or possibly Donovan, still have a really good top five outfielders on the roster, and then have Palacios fill in behind them. That's the likeliest outcome here if Palacios keeps impressing.

That does not mean Palacios can't continue to force his name onto the Cardinals' radar in 2024, though. Maybe he could have a "Lars Nootbaar-like rise", where he first causes the Cardinals to take him seriously as a fourth or fifth outfielder type, and over time, he continues to carve out more and more of a role with the team.

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I know this is all premature, and I'm not telling you I think Palacios is the next guy to break through with the Cardinals that you did not expect. But I do think he has a chance to become a meaningful depth piece next year, which allows them to be even more aggressive in trading away position players for pitching this offseason.

Time will tell, but for now, Palacios is at least making Cardinals games a lot more fun to watch right now.