Internal improvements are projected in a big way
On top of the addition of Contreras and stabilized production at DH, current projections see the Cardinals having a deep lineup. As things currently stand, St. Louis is projected to have 12 different players producing above league average at the plate, and six of those players at 20% above average. The depth that the Cardinals have up and down the order and off the bench can be matched by few, if any, in baseball.
Sure, the Cardinals do not have the strongest middle of the order in baseball. Their MVP level duo of Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado can matchup with any duo, but their 3rd and 4th best hitters are outclassed by teams like the Padres and Phillies. Yet, as a whole lineup, and when it comes to the necessary depth to sustain a full season, that is where the Cardinals have an edge on most clubs.
Players like Tyler O'Neill, Lars Nootbaar, Jordan Walker, Juan Yepez, Nolan Gorman, and Dylan Carlson all have the potential to take a big step forward and be elite bats in their lineup. Nootbaar showed for most of the second half that he is capable of being an All-Star level player. O'Neill finished top 10 in MVP voting in 2021. Walker projects to be a superstar and could be as soon as his rookie year. Gorman, Yepez, and Carlson have all shown the potential to be really, really productive hitters.
I get it, there are a lot of "ifs" here with the club. But here is the thing. Many of these "ifs" relate more so to the club being even better than the projections predict, rather than being just a "good" lineup. The Cardinals should easily be a top 10 lineup in baseball, even if steps foward are not taken by their young core. But the exciting thing about St. Louis is they have so many different players who can take a major step forward in 2023. If only a few of them do, that will be plenty enough for the club to slug with the very best in baseball.