Josh Jacobs (@joshjacomlb on Twitter)
MVP: Nolan Arenado
After finishing third in voting last year, I believe Nolan Arenado is going to follow up his teammate Paul Goldschmidt by bringing home the National League Most Valuable Player.
Arenado’s fire and competitive nature will make him the face of the St. Louis Cardinals, now that Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina have retired. Arenado embodies what it means to be a Cardinal, and this will lead to a career year for the third baseman who will hit cleanup for the best lineup in baseball.
Cy Young: Starter acquired at the deadline
Okay, I’m cheating here. I don’t think the best starter the Cardinals will have in 2023 is currently on the roster. I believe the club will use its assets to acquire an ace in July, in hopes of propelling their World Series hopes.
I will say that I believe Steven Matz will impress a ton this year, and quickly go from an afterthought in many fans’ minds to a stabilizing force in the Cardinals’ rotation.
X-Factor: Jordan Walker
I think picking an X-Factor for this year is as hard as it’s ever been. Jack Flaherty or one of the other starters are good choices, Tyler O’Neill and Lars Nootbaar have a ton of potential for this club, Willson Contreras being himself transforms this lineup, and Nolan Gorman becoming a power bat would give this lineup a new dynamic.
But come on, it’s gotta be Jordan Walker.
Aside from the star potential that he has, and can dip into, almost immediately for this Cardinals’ team, I believe Walker breaking out this year gives the Cardinals a ton of flexibility. If Walker is a stud immediately, St. Louis can go into the deadline with full confidence in trading away guys like Dylan Carlson, Alec Burleson, Juan Yepez, or even Nolan Gorman to acquire the arms they need.
Two-sentence team evaluation:
2023 will be marked as the beginning of a new era of St. Louis Cardinals baseball, powered by their MLB-best lineup and incoming young talent. The Cardinals will slug their way to the postseason, and a deep run is possible if they can settle questions with their pitching.
Bold prediction: Masyn Winn is the club’s starting shortstop by the end of the season
This is nothing against Tommy Edman, Brendan Donovan, or Nolan Gorman. This has everything to do with the talent that Masyn Winn has.
If the Cardinals go out and acquire a starter this deadline, I believe one of Carlson or Gorman will have to be in that deal. Should one of those players be traded, I think that opens up playing time for a guy like Winn. If Carlson is dealt, Gorman can settle in at DH, Edman slides over to second, and Donovan becomes the super utility guy, getting more starts in the outfield in Carlson’s absence. If Gorman is dealt, one of the outfielders can DH, and the same shifts happen with Donovan and Edman.
Assuming injuries happen as well, there may be some other paths toward playing time that we cannot predict right now. But Winn’s talent is too undeniable to stay in Triple-A very long. Expect him to shoot up MLB prospect lists soon, and take over at shortstop in St. Louis as soon as the middle of the summer.