Defense Grade: B-
Watching the Cardinals night in and night out last season, one of the most frustrating things to observe was their inconsistent play defensively throughout the year.
Jordan Walker was atrocious defensively for most of the season in the outfield. Nolan Gorman and Brendan Donovan have improved defensively at second base, but it was a far cry from what Tommy Edman has provided there in the past. Willson Contreras was a significant step back defensively behind the plate from what the Cardinals have grown accustomed to. Alec Burleson was told by St. Louis at the end of the year they did not trust him defensively in the outfield. It was a mess.
To make matters worse, even guys like Edman and Nolan Arenado had stretches where things weren't clicking defensively. In the first half of the season, Arenado looked nothing like himself at third base, and Edman was making weird mistakes at second base and shortstop that we are not used to him making.
Things appear to be looking up for the Cardinals' defense next season, but there is a bit of "wait and see" needed here. Behind the plate, Contreras will have a full year under his belt with the Cardinals, and with the addition of Yadier Molina as an advisor, we expect to see some improvement there. Arenado and Goldschmidt should hold things down in the corner infield as they usually do, and the middle infield duo of Masyn Winn and one of Donovan or Gorman makes for one of the better defensive infields in baseball.
Walker has been working hard on his defense in right field, so even if he's just average out there next year, that is a huge improvement from what they got in 2023. Edman looked terrific out in center field and provides stability there, and Lars Nootbaar will get to settle into left field in a full-time capacity. Victor Scott II could factor in at some point with his elite defense as well, and Dylan Carlson is a great option defensively as the fourth outfielder.
The talent is there for this grade to rise as the season goes on, but for now, a B- seems to be more than fair. Arenado, Goldschmidt, Winn, and Edman can all be among the best defensively at their respective positions, and if Walker and Contreras make those improvements the Cardinals are hoping for, they should not have any major liabilities out there on a consistent basis. But with those "what ifs" baked in, it's hard to give them much higher of a grade as things currently stand.