Counting down the 20 most important Cardinals in 2023: #13 Brendan Donovan
Why is Brendan Donovan important for St. Louis in 2023?
Heading into this year's spring training, Donovan was expected to be in a battle with Nolan Gorman for the starting second base job. However, with both players batting left-handed, they couldn't form a traditional platoon. Their skill sets are more of an on-base threat vs. a thumper at the dish.
With Donovan able to play just about everywhere and Gorman a natural third baseman trying to get by at second base because of the presence of Nolan Arenado at the hot corner, that projected second base battle may not shake out quite that way. When Gorman is at the keystone, Donovan could be manning one of several other possible positions, giving his teammates a day off while not sacrificing defensive performance and inserting a different offensive profile.
Well, that low-power, high-OBP game is what everyone expected before Donovan smacked four home runs in his first nine spring training games, one shy of his 2022 regular season total, in which he achieved over 126 games. Stories of a more upright stance and a new, heavier bat with the "hockey puck" knob Paul Goldschmidt uses indicate Donovan's plans to search for more power to help round out his game and make him even more valuable to the Cardinals.
Whether Donovan can actualize his power in game or simply maintain the offensive performance he showed last season, which was good for a 126 OPS+, he absolutely will play a valuable role for St. Louis. Move him around the diamond and on the grass defensively and bat him leadoff, second, or down in the lineup, regardless, Donovan will help the team win.
By the Redbird Rants crew's estimation, there are only a dozen more important players to the Cardinals this upcoming season than Donovan. And if that purported power proves itself present once the regular season begins, he could move way up the list, serving as one of the leaders of the team as St. Louis pursues yet another postseason appearance.