After being among the best teams in baseball defensively for the last few seasons, the Cardinals took a major step back this year, and there are a number of reasons for this. Nolan Arenado, one of the best defenders of all time, looked like a shell of himself in the first half. He's since turned that around. Jordan Walker was one of the worst defenders in baseball for much of the season but has taken massive strides in recent months. Nolan Gorman saw similar improvements to his play as well as the season went on.
While an improved defense would not have fixed this team's issues, it surely would have helped. Even if the Cardinals revamp their staff in a meaningful way this offseason, they cannot afford to repeat their defensive miscues again. For all of those reasons I stated above, things are already improving for St. Louis, but there's one name that figures to be a major part of that equation as well.
Since breaking out during Spring Training, fans were eager to see Winn get a shot in St. Louis. The Cardinals were rightfully patient with Winn, allowing him to develop as a hitter in Triple-A and grow in his confidence as a player. By the time he finally got the call to St. Louis, he was one of the hottest hitters in all of Minor League Baseball and had proven everything he needed to at that level.
While Winn has struggled at the plate so far with a sub-.500 OPS, he's making his presence known defensively on a nightly basis. From tracking down would-be bloop singles in shallow center field to turning double plays with his arm that no one else in baseball can, he's getting Cardinals' pitchers out of jams and preventing runs at an impressive rate. Just check out one of the many highlight reel plays he's already made in his short time in St. Louis.
Opening Day next year, Winn will be a major reason why the Cardinals' defense performs at a much higher level than it has in 2023. Between Winn, Arenado, and Tommy Edman, the Cardinals have three of the most exciting defenders in baseball. Add in names like Paul Goldschmidt, Brendan Donovan, and Lars Nootbaar, and this unit is very impressive. If Victor Scott II ends up joining the club at some point in 2024, the defense could truly be among the best in baseball.
While Winn's bat hasn't been anything to write home about, that's part of the reason the Cardinals wanted him to get some seasoning over the last month or so of baseball. Winn will have over 100 at-bats to his name at the Major League level before Opening Day in 2024 and will have an entire offseason to make adjustments before the pressure is really on. Winn is a defense-first player, but there's real potential in his bat that can make him a high-level talent in today's game.
For now, Winn's biggest strengths, his arm and his glove, were much needed in St. Louis and will help revive their defense in 2024 and beyond.