The Cardinals will likely win the NL Central. The Reds and Pirates are awful, and the Cubs are still rebuilding. The Brewers have a good rotation but questions on offense and are just not as good top to bottom as the Cards.
The teams the Cards could face in the playoffs are an entirely different story. The Braves, Mets, Phillies, Padres, and Dodgers are all strong teams with better starting pitching than the Cards to go along with potent offenses.
The Braves and Padres have lineups that are better on paper than the Cardinals, and the Mets and Phillies are not far behind.
The Braves picked up Sean Murphy to go along with a strong core of Austin Riley, Matt Olson, Ronald Acuna, and Rookie of the Year Michael Harris. The Padres' “Big Four” of Juan Soto, Xander Bogaerts, Fernando Tatis Jr., and MVP runner-up Manny Machado is ridiculous.
The Phillies are coming off a World Series appearance and picked up All-Star shortstop Trea Turner, although they will be without Bryce Harper for a good chunk of the year. The Mets lineup is headlined by slugger Pete Alonzo and Francisco Lindor, as well as Brandon Nimmo and Starling Marte.
The Cards may be better offensively than the Dodgers, but any lineup that includes Mookie Betts, Freddy Freeman, and Will Smith is a force to be reckoned with.
Where these teams are all better than the Cardinals is starting pitching. The Braves’ staff is led by Max Fried and rookie sensation Spencer Strider and complemented by Charlie Morton. Their division rivals, the Phillies, counter with Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler, while the Mets can go with perennial Cy Young contenders Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander.
The two teams from the West also have strong rotations. The Padres rotation is headlined by Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, and Joe Musgrove. Musgrove will miss the start of the year but should be back quickly. The Dodgers lost Walker Buehler to Tommy John surgery but still have Julio Urias, Dustin May, and veteran Clayton Kershaw in the rotation.