Lowered expectations could fuel success for St. Louis Cardinals' Paul DeJong

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St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong could benefit from grounded expectations in 2023.

2023 is a pivotal year for St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong, and most fans expect him to flounder again after a season that saw him hit .157 and finish as one of the worst hitters in the league. 

DeJong’s strong Spring Training performance in 2022 produced hope among fans that he had turned a corner from his 2021 struggles, but when the calendar flipped and the games started to count, DeJong lost his touch and dashed the hopes of the Cardinals faithful. To avoid getting fooled again, many fans are refusing to put stock in any Spring Training success DeJong may have, but their pessimism could be just what he needs to revitalize his career. 

DeJong has revamped his approach at the plate, shedding his leg kick and implementing a follow-through where he keeps both hands on the bat. Fans will point to all the adjustments DeJong made before the 2022 season that didn’t bear fruit as reasons to be skeptical about this producing positive results, but fans might be holding the “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” adage a bit too closely. Baseball careers aren’t always linear, and DeJong could have made an adjustment that will help him be a threat in the batter’s box again.

With 19 players in the organization set to participate in the World Baseball Classic, DeJong will have plenty of opportunities in Spring Training to work on his new swing. Tommy Edman is entrenched as the shortstop this season, and DeJong will almost certainly begin the season in a reserve role. This could be another positive for him, as he won’t have to handle the demands and expectations of an everyday player. But if DeJong can be productive in the games he does play, manager Oliver Marmol will inevitably start to believe in him more and insert him into the lineup more often.

It’s quietly shaping up to be a potential bounce-back campaign for DeJong precisely because people don’t think he’ll be able to do it. DeJong no longer has a bunch of weight on his shoulders from being a key cog in the lineup, so anything he produces will be considered a bonus. A lot of fans learned the hard way last season not to trust Spring Training results, but the fact that so many have written him off entirely could lead him to flourish when nobody expects it.

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