Ben Remis (@BenRemis on Twitter)
MVP: Nolan Arenado
After an offseason of outsiders questioning his decision not to opt out, I wouldn’t be surprised if Nolan Arenado has the best season of his career. It takes someone special to be picked ahead of the reigning MVP, but Nolan is one-of-a-kind.
Cy Young: Miles Mikolas
I considered Ryan Helsley here, as I think the anchor of a strong Cardinal bullpen deserves some recognition. However, after signing a new contract extension this month, Miles Mikolas is ready to lead the rotation. He’s not flashy and he won’t lead the league in strikeouts, but Mikolas could be one of the best “number twos” in all of baseball. I feel especially confident in Mikolas adjusting to the pitch clock, as he normally works with a quick pace. Will Miles compete for the NL Cy Young? Unlikely. But when healthy, Miles Mikolas is going to be a steady presence at the top of the rotation. It wouldn’t shock me if he wins 20 games.
X-Factor: Jack Flaherty
Lars Nootbaar is my breakout candidate, Dylan Carlson is my bounceback candidate, and we’ll be writing plenty this season about Jordan Walker. But on a team with questions on the mound, the X-Factor has to be Jack Flaherty. This is a make-or-break season for the former ace– he’s fully healthy, and the Cardinals are counting on a return to form. If Flaherty struggles, the Cardinals' rotation depth will be tested. But if he’s really back (and I believe he will be) Jack raises the ceiling of this team significantly.
Two sentence evaluation:
Along with an underrated bullpen, this team has the deepest and potentially most explosive offense in all of baseball. It feels silly to already be looking ahead, but the expectation is a deep October run.
Bold prediction: Six all-stars, four gold gloves, at least two end-of-season awards
From a team perspective, I’d be ok without too many surprises. But individually? We all know St. Louis tends to get overlooked in the national media. However, this team just has too much talent. Starting with the all-star game, both Tommy Edman and Lars Nootbaar could earn surprise starts. Then by the end of the year, you have the reigning MVP in Goldschmidt defending his crown against Arenado (it feels like he deserves to win at least one during his career, right?) I have a feeling Willson Contreras is gunning for a Gold Glove, and who’s to say Oli Marmol can’t win Manager of the Year? Oh, and Jordan Walker might run away with the ROY. If a Cy Young candidate emerges, there could be a whole lot of hardware heading back to Busch Stadium.