The St. Louis Cardinals were among the best in baseball in almost every major offensive category in 2022, and despite the loss of Hall of Famers Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina, the club is still projected to be one of the best lineups in baseball, according to Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com
When ranking the top 10 lineups in baseball for the 2023 season, Castrovince had the Cardinals as the 5th best lineup in the game, having this to say about St. Louis:
"Though the Cards will sure miss that surprisingly vintage performance they got from Albert Pujols in the second half of 2022, Contreras (132 wRC+ in '22) replacing Yadier Molina (51) is pretty much as big an offensive upgrade as you can possibly make with a single signing. Thanks to MVP-caliber seasons from Goldschmidt and Arenado and the emergence of the likes of Donovan and Nootbaar, the Cards ranked fifth in runs (772) and wRC+ (114) last year. They could further be boosted by top prospect Jordan Walker. "- Anthony Castrovince, MLB.com
Of course, the Cardinals big move of the off-season was signing catcher Willson Contreras. As Castrovince points out here, this upgrade in production alone from the catcher spot in the lineup is a huge addition to the St. Louis lineup.
Many are quick to ask the question "But who replaces Albert Pujols' production in 2023"? Let's break that down for a moment, because there seems to be a lot of misunderstandings about this.
First, Contreras was brought in to be a big bat in the lineup and supplement some of that lost production, but his addition should be seen as a major offensive upgrade at one of the least productive spots in any order in baseball last year, rather than "Pujols' replacement". Contreras is going to make a spot in the order that was 50% below league average in 2022 into a bat that is 20%-30% above league average, whcih as Castrovince points out, is as big of a swing as you can get.
Second, the Cardinals have enough internal options to offset a lot of Pujols' lost production next season. Remember, Pujols was elite for the 2nd half of 2022, but before that hot stretch, he was below league average at the plate.
Expecting Juan Yepez, Jordan Walker, Alec Burleson, or Nolan Gorman to be Albert Pujols in 2023 is not realistic. But to believe they will provide the Cardinals with consistent production at the DH spot all year long, rather than just one half, is something to be expected.
Pujols finished the 2022 season with a 151 wRC+, largely due to that 2nd half surge he was on. While I highly doubt any of the Cardinals current DH options go on a tear like Pujols did, I do believe between all of their options, they can replicate a large chunk of that production over 162 games. The Cardinals will platoon that positoin frequently, giving guys at bats that favor them in matchups, increasing their likelihood of producing at a high level.
I would also bet that at least one of Yepez, Walker, Gorman, or Burleson out perform their current projections, giving the Cardinals another great hitter for their lineup. Plus, getting at least above average production from that spot in the lineup for the entirety of the season, rather than just half the year, gives the Cardinals a stronger lineup for 162 games, rather than just the post All-Star break performances.