It's time to accept the Cardinals have one of the best lineups in baseball going into 2023
If you polled most St. Louis Cardinals fans after the 2023 season, including me, you would have thought they needed significant upgrades to their lineup to compete in 2023. Many advocated hard for St. Louis to pursue a top shortstop or bat in the outfield alongside an upgrade at catcher, leaving some disappointed that the only significant upgrade came in the form of Willson Contreras.
Well, if you ask most national media outlets, they expect the Cardinals' lineup to be one of the best in baseball in 2023. The most recent name to hype the Cardinals' lineup is Bradford Doolittle of ESPN, who had the Cardinals ranked as the second-best lineup in all of baseball (subscription required).
Here is a bit of what Doolittle had to say about why he is so high on the St. Louis lineup,
"This doesn't look like the most athletic Cardinals team in history but it does look like a lineup that can mash up and down the order. As in from the very top to the very bottom. For that statement to turn out to be true, it'll require continued development and success from some young players, such as Carlson, Nootbaar, Donovan and Yepez. But it's an impressive mix and the base lineup doesn't even include youngsters Nolan Gorman, who can mash but has questionable strike-zone command, and Jordan Walker, who could hit St. Louis with a flourish this season... The lineup, already deep, got even longer with the offseason addition of Contreras. The Cardinals are projected to have six players in the 90th percentile or better by OPS+, the most of any club in the majors."- Bradford Doolittle, ESPN.com
Doolittle ranked the Cardinals' best traits as patience, strike-zone command, the long ball, and BABIP, with their worst trait being speed (which really isn't a big weakness of this team). He, like many around baseball, sees the long list of names in the Cardinals' talent pool as a major strength of the team, having more names to rely on than perhaps any team in baseball. He points out that the Cardinals are the only team in baseball to have six players in the 90th percentile or better by OPS+ projections, along with their ten or more players projected to be above league average.
Some other outlets that have thought highly of the Cardinals in 2023 are ZiPS, whose projections have St. Louis with one of the highest ceilings next season, and MLB.com, which ranked the Cardinals as a top 5 lineup in baseball.
I know we have talked a lot about this lineup over the last few months, but there is something we haven't really discussed that I think is worth comparing amongst the best lineups in baseball that show even more why the Cardinals have such an elite lineup right now.