Predicting the Cardinals roster, lineups and pitching staff 3 months from Opening Day

We are three months away from Opening Day and we have a pretty good idea of what the Cardinals roster will look like when they begin the 2024 season in Los Angeles.

Cincinnati Reds v St. Louis Cardinals
Cincinnati Reds v St. Louis Cardinals / Dilip Vishwanat/GettyImages
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Starting lineups, rotation, and bullpen roles

Lineup vs. RHP
DH Brendan Donovan
1B Paul Goldschmidt
2B Nolan Gorman
3B Nolan Arenado
C Willson Contreras
LF Lars Nootbaar
RF Jordan Walker
CF Tommy Edman
SS Masyn Winn

Lineup vs. LHP
CF Dylan Carlson
1B Paul Goldschmidt
DH Willson Contreras
3B Nolan Arenado
2B Nolan Gorman
RF Jordan Walker
LF Lars Nootbaar
C Ivan Herrera
SS Masyn Winn/Tommy Edman

Rotation
1. Sonny Gray
2. Miles Mikolas
3. Steven Matz
4. Lance Lynn
5. Kyle Gibson

Bullpen
High leverage - Ryan Helsley, free agent addition, Giovanny Gallegos, JoJo Romero

Middle innings - Ryan Fernandez, Andre Pallante, Nick Robertson

Long relief/spot starter - Zack Thompson

Analysis
I spent way too much time debating how the lineup would be set up for both right-handed and left-handed pitching, and you could convince me of a ton of other combinations.

Against right-handed pitching, either Nootbaar or Donovan would lead off, and I leaned toward Donovan because of his high OBP approach and the elite production he had from late May until being placed on the Injured List in late July. I also kind of think that Nootbaar profiles better as a sixth hitter than Donovan because of his power, but again, you can switch them if you want. I also could see Nootbaar batting third and Gorman batting sixth, but I just think Gorman's power output needs to be in the heart of the order.

Check out Gorman's OBP, SLG, and wRC+ by month in 2023.

Nolan Gorman

OBP

SLG

wRC+

March/April

.356

.522

135

May

.365

.590

155

June

.211

.229

22

July

.344

.600

152

August

.309

.319

80

Sept/Oct.

.372

.528

145

Outside of the horrible month of June and a below-league-average August, Gorman was 35%-55% above league average as a hitter with elite on-base and slugging numbers throughout the year. Gorman is a streaky hitter, and if that remains the case, then he can slide down in the order and Nootbaar can bat third when Gorman is in a funk, but when he's on, he needs to be high in the order.

There's a pretty good chance Jordan Walker will rise in the order in the very near future. After being called back up in June, he posted a .277/.346/.455 slash line with a 120 wRC+, and that improved to .286/.356/.470 with a 126 wRC+ over the last two months of the year. I think Goldschmidt, Arenado, and Contreras will all bat higher to start the year, but I would not be surprised to see one of them bumped down in favor of him by midseason against both right and left-handed pitching.

Speaking of left-handed pitching, Donovan has struggled against left-handers his first two years and Carlson has been elite, so I can see Carlson getting the starting nod against lefties and Donovan being a weapon off the bench when their opponent goes to the bullpen.

I also think this could be an interesting time to start Ivan Herrea and let Willson Contreras rest of have a DH day. They are going to balance their playing time based on rest and recovery mainly, but if they want to be strategic, using left-handed matchups as a part of this makes sense. This would also be a good time to give either Tommy Edman or Masyn Winn a rest day since they are the only two shortstops on the roster but both are slated to play every day.

Outside of a trade before Spring Training, the Cardinals rotation looks to be set already, and I see Matz slotting in as the number three starter. Honestly, I think he's the second-best starter on the staff right now, but Mikolas likely slots in as the number two anyway.

While this may be how I see the bullpen stacking up to start the year, the actual players in the bullpen and the roles they fill will likely be fluid for months on end. The Cardinals have a lot of relievers with options, so they can send guys up and down based on performance and health, and some of their new young arms could carve out bigger roles as the season goes on.

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