3. Nolan Gorman
There's been quite the debate amongst Cardinals fans about who the Cardinals should trade between Brendan Donovan and Nolan Gorman for a starting pitcher. Sometimes the arguments turn into tearing down or diminishing the other player in the process. Can we just agree that both guys are extremely valuable for the Cardinals and the goal is to hold onto both bats?
Donovan has been the superior offensive player thus far in their careers (sporting a 124 career wRC+ to Gorman's 113) while also providing value at five different positions. And yet, if I had to place value on the two, Gorman squeaks ahead of Donovan because of the insane power he has at the plate.
In 119 games last year for the Cardinals, Gorman slugged 27 long balls to go along with 76 RBIs while battling a nagging back injury. Gorman saw improvements across the board in his walk percentage, strikeout percentage, ISO, average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and weighted runs created plus, and will look to take another step forward into stardom in 2024.
One could argue he kind of already did that in 2024, but he was robbed of a massive final stat line due to injury, but mainly, an awful month of June at the plate where he posted a 22 wRC+. In all other months, Gorman posted 135, 155, 152, 80, and 145 respectively. Humor me for a second and let's compare the month of June for Gorman to the rest of his season.
June (76 PA)
Rest of 2023 (338 PA)
Gorman was maybe the worst hitter in baseball in the month of June, and his 137 wRC+ in all other months would've made him 12th-best in all of baseball the rest of the year. That awful 76-plate appearance stretch tanked his numbers a ton of didn't do him justice as a player last year. Still, Gorman's streakiness has been a thing throughout his professional career, so there is a bit of "you've got to live with the lows if you want the highs" with him.
I don't think it's a reach to assume he won't be one of the worst hitters in baseball for an entire month again, so even just being closer to league average or slightly below league average in his down stretches next year can vault him into the conversations as one of the most feared left-handed bats in the game.
While Gorman will likely struggle with strikeouts his whole career, his ability to command the strike zone and draw walks raises his ceiling (and floor) as a hitter massively. He's not just swinging at everything thrown his way. He knows what pitches to hit, and when he makes contact, they go a long way. He's also proven to be able to do that in the biggest spots, as he's actually raised his game in medium and high-leverage situations with a 126 wRC+ and .829 OPS
Gorman is not going to be a plus defender at second base, but he made improvements last year and could be average defensively next year. While his defensive ceiling is limited, his bat is just so good and put that at second base, that's insanely valuable long-term.
Like many others on this list, Gorman is cost-controlled for a long time, not hitting free agency until at least 2029. He's not someone the Cardinals should be quick to move on from.