2. Lars Nootbaar
We've entered the top two names on this list, and international superstar Lars Nootbaar finishes as the runner-up in most valuable young position players for the Cardinals.
Nootbaar only played in 117 games in 2023 and still finished second on the Cardinals in fWAR. The missed games total was caused by a freak thumb injury in April while sliding and then a groin injury that caused him to miss 13 games that month and 13 more games in August after hitting a foul ball off his groin. He did miss 16 games from late May to the middle of June due to a back injury, which would be something to monitor more. Regardless, he missed 26 games due to weird, non-repeatable injuries, and it's clear that both injuries stunted his progression during the season.
During his brief month of June back from the back injury, Nootbaar has an abysmal 14 wRC+, and in September/October after his groin injury, posted a 77 wRC+. Yet, in his only real sustained run of play from June 19th all the way to August 16th, Nootbaar posted a .297/.384/.509 slash line with an .893 OPS and 144 wRC+. Nootbaar, when he's playing consistently, has shown he can be one of the best outfielders in baseball.
Although the majority of the games he missed in 2023 were freak injuries, he'll have to prove in 2024 that he can remain on the field to hit that potential that so many of us see in him. We aren't talking about a guy who hasn't been productive outside of those stretches though. Nootbaar had a 123 wRC+ in 2022 and 118 wRC+ in 2023, and has continuously provided above-average defense along the way as well.
Slotted as the everyday left fielder in 2024, Nootbaar will likely get to hit third in the order between Goldschmidt and Arenado when they face right-handed pitching and has shown improvement against southpaws as well. Nootbaar was already a very productive player in 2023, but 2024 is the year he blossoms into an All-Star caliber player and may even get some MVP votes along the way.