St. Louis Cardinals Opening Day Roster Prediction 1.0
(4) - Tyler O'Neill, Lars Nootbaar, Dylan Carlson, and Alec Burleson
It was a year ago this time that the Cardinals were thought to have one of the best young outfields in all of baseball, and by the end of 2023, I believe that will be the sentiment once again.
Lars Nootbaar is primed to become a top outfielder in today's game after a breakout season in 2022. I would not be surprised to see him in the conversation for an All-Star appearance this year, or at the very least, establish himself as a very productive player at the plate and in the field.
Tyler O'Neill is one of the biggest X-factors for St. Louis this year. Even if he just recaptures 75% of the player he was during the 2021 season, he takes the Cardinals' lineup to a whole other level. I do expect O'Neill's bat to bounce back in a big way, and serve as either protection for Goldschmidt and Arenado or be sandwiched between them in the 3-hole once again.
Dylan Carlson showed a ton of potential as an elite defensive outfielder last season, and the biggest question mark surrounding him is his ability to hit right-handed pitching. Since 2021, Carlson ranks in the top 40 hitters against left-handed pitching in wRC+ among players with 135 or more plate appearances, and if he can even become league average versus right-handers, he becomes one of the best young outfielders in today's game.
Noticeably missing from this list is Jordan Walker, but as I read the tea leaves, I think it is more likely that he begins the year in Triple-A and becomes an everyday player in St. Louis the moment an injury occurs or one of the four outfielders underperforms. Alec Burleson makes the roster in his place and has honestly been underrated heading into this season. He's not a great defender, but he's better than most give him credit for. All Burleson has done since being drafted is hit, and he has all of the tools to produce at a high level at the plate for St. Louis for years to come.