3 - Nolan Gorman
Nolan Gorman took a massive step forward in 2023. After a quietly successful rookie campaign, in which he received unduly harsh criticism for his strikeout rate, Gorman adjusted his swing to handle high fastballs and improved drastically. In only 119 games, Gorman slugged 27 home runs and raised his OPS from .721 to .805. He showed immense promise to become the left-handed power bat that the Cardinals need between Goldschmidt and Arenado. Had Gorman stayed healthy, he easily would've hit 30 home runs as a second baseman, and possibly gotten close to 40. For a second baseman, that's comparable to only Ozzie Albies, Jose Altuve, and Marcus Semien.
There are reasons for concern with a possible extension, however. Nolan Gorman is an extremely streaky hitter. He was fantastic in 2023 during April, May, July, and September, but he was unplayable in June, posting a .439 OPS in 20 games. While this dreadful month makes it even more impressive that Gorman's season OPS was so high, the low end of his streakiness coming at the wrong times could be extremely costly for the Cardinals.
Gorman's first two seasons in St. Louis also profile extremely similar to a cautionary tale of player extensions: Paul DeJong. While I'm in no way saying that Gorman's career trajectory will follow DeJong's in any fashion, their similar profiles are definitely a cause for caution. With recency bias, many Cardinals fans have probably forgotten just how great Paul DeJong was in his first three seasons. He finished second in Rookie of the Year voting behind Cody Bellinger in 2017 and was selected as an All-Star in 2019, hitting .251 and slugging .467 during that stretch, exceeding Gorman's average and slugging of .232 and .454.
Both DeJong and Gorman were high-strikeout middle infielders with huge power numbers in their first few seasons. While DeJong outperformed Gorman in their first few seasons, it's clear Gorman still has room to grow and hasn't put everything together just yet. Sure, the two players are comparable, but it's extremely unlikely Gorman will suffer the same fate as DeJong. He's yet to play a fully healthy season, and his defensive numbers jumped significantly in 2023. DeJong's contract is something to be wary of, but should not deter the Cardinals from securing Gorman's services long-term.