Predicting who makes St. Louis Cardinals Opening Day as Spring Training begins

Which brave and talented men will lead the Cardinals to victory next year?

St. Louis Cardinals v Miami Marlins
St. Louis Cardinals v Miami Marlins / Sam Navarro/GettyImages
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Bullpen (8) -- Ryan Helsley, Giovanny Gallegos, JoJo Romero, Keynan Middleton, Andrew Kittredge, Andre Pallante, Zach Thompson, and Ryan Fernandez

Most of these reliever spots are guaranteed as a result of past performance and the capital--both player and financial--it took to get them. Ryan Helsley is going to be the team's resident closer for next year barring any injuries. He has been excellent in that role since he claimed it in 2022. Giovanny Gallegos and JoJo Romero will be the next batch of back-end relievers. Should Gallegos experience a return to his old ways, the Cardinals will have a pretty formidable back end of the bullpen, something they lacked last year.

Behind these three we see two guaranteed relievers in Keynan Middleton and Andrew Kittredge. Both have experience in high-leverage situations, and both are virtually guaranteed spots as a result of what it took to acquire them (millions of dollars and a decent role-player, respectfully). The final three spots are where the roster will see the most competition during Spring Training.

John King, Matthew Liberatore, Riley O'Brien, and Nick Robertson are all viable options. King and Libby would be left-handed options, while O'Brien and Robertson have interesting stuff. My personal choices would be Andre Pallante, Zach Thompson, and Ryan Fernandez. Pallante has reverse splits for a right-handed pitcher, and Zach Thompson has shown that he can thrive as a reliever. Perhaps the front office wants to keep him in Memphis to remain stretched out, but I could see a world in which he is the swingman for St. Louis.

The final spot goes to Ryan Fernandez. In Katie Woo's piece on The Athletic (subscription required) on the 26-man roster, she mentions how he was taken in the Rule 5 Draft, so he has to start on the roster or else his rights return to the Boston Red Sox. The bullpen likely won't be shaken out until the final days of Spring Training, however.

The St. Louis Cardinals clearly have depth for next year. While not many positions are elite, they have a lot of warm, serviceable bodies that they can throw in and be confident. Assuming strong health from certain players, it is likely we see a return to the playoffs in 2024 for the Cardinals.

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