Dan Szymborski's ZiPS projections for each team in Major League Baseball are typically the most accurate and detailed projections among analysts. The ZiPS projections for the St. Louis Cardinals, despite a dismal 2023 season, are actually quite optimistic. Dan's summative comments regarding the Cardinals' projections are reassuring, especially given the middling division the Cardinals find themselves in.
"So what does it all add up to? ZiPS sees the Cardinals as having patched up enough of their immediate problems to return to winning 85-90 games, depending on what, if anything, the rest of the NL Central does this winter. Like most teams that have a suddenly horrific season, the Cardinals have become underrated in the public eye, and the hastily reassembled rotation, coupled with a solid bullpen and an above-average offensive core, could very well take one of baseball’s weakest divisions."- Dan Szymborski
In my analysis of these projections, I discovered that the Cardinals have one of the best lineups in baseball still. Not one position has a projected WAR total below 2.1, and the Cardinals feature three well-above-average players in Paul Goldschmidt, Tommy Edman, and Nolan Arenado. Willson Contreras and Lars Nootbaar aren't far behind either.
With the ZiPS projections being published for all teams, I wanted to look at which teams in the National League Central are projected to have the most formidable lineups in baseball next year.
5. Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pittsburgh Pirates' position players are projected for only 16.7 WAR according to FanGraphs and ZiPS. The Pirates have three strong players in shortstop Oneil Cruz (2.1 WAR), third baseman Ke'Bryan Hayes (2.6 WAR), and outfielder Bryan Reynolds (2.7 WAR). Beyond these three, however, ZiPS doesn't love the team's position players.
Center fielder Jack Suwinski is projected to have a modest 2.3 WAR season with a nice balance between offensive production and defensive capabilities. Endy Rodriguez, the presumptive catcher as of the beginning of the offseason, will miss all of 2024 due to a tear on his UCL during winter ball.
Pittsburgh's lineup is young and reasonably talented, but they lack the depth that can push them to the next level in 2024. If Pittsburgh can find more room in their budget, one more corner outfielder or designated hitter could elevate them slightly.
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