The Cardinals may have the best 7-8-9 hitters in the game
Teams like the Padres and Phillies have an edge when it comes to the number of superstars in their lineup when healthy. The Cardinals do have two MVP-level hitters, but there's a drop-off when you compare Contreras to guys like Xander Bogaerts or J.T. Realmuto. But that could change if Jordan Walker, Tyler O'Neill, Lars Nootbaar, or Juan Yepez take a step in 2023.
Where the Cardinals do have a major advantage over maybe every team in baseball is how deep their lineup goes. In past seasons, it's felt like after you get past the fifth spot in their lineup, teams had easy outs all the way until the middle of the order showed up again. That is not the case with the Cardinals team.
Based on my lineup construction ideas from last week, I think the 7-8-9 hitters come Opening Day could look something like Juan Yepez/Nolan Gorman, Jordan Walker, and Tommy Edman. Let's just compare that trio to the names we may see at the bottom of the other best lineups in baseball to start the year.
Padres - Matt Carpenter, Austin Nola, Trent Grisham
Braves - Eddie Rosario, Marcell Ozuna, Vaughn Grissom
Astros - Jeremey Pena, Chas McCormick, Martin Maldonado
Blue Jays - Brandon Belt, Whit Merrifield, Kevin Kiermaier
Dodgers - Trayce Thompson, Chris Taylor, James Outman
Mets - Mark Canha, Eduardo Escobar, Omar Narvaez
Phillies - Alec Bohm, Bryson Stott, Brandon Marsh
Do you see the difference here? You could maybe argue some of these trios provide more "certainty" in what you're going to get, but honestly, I bet even the worst-case scenario for the Cardinals' bottom of the order is better than most of these. What the Cardinals have that these trios don't is the legitimate upside.
Whether it's Walker, Yepez, Gorman, Edman, or guys like Dylan Carlson, Alec Burleson, Brendan Donovan, or Lars Nootbaar who could also see time in the 7-8-9 spots, the Cardinals' have guys who could be dangerous hitters all throughout the lineup. Mix that with top-end talent in the middle of their order, and I expect St. Louis to score a ton of runs next season.
The more and more I look at this team, the more I think they are capable of compared to the current narratives facing them. Even without a major upgrade to their rotation, it still has the ability, mixed with a good bullpen, and elite units in the forms of their offense and defense, to compete with some of the best teams in baseball in 2023. Assuming things are going well for them as the season progresses, I would be shocked if the Cardinals did not insert themselves in the market for front-line pitching to add fuel to their fire and be a legit World Series favorite.
In the meantime, we are very close to seeing this lineup get to work down in Jupiter, Florida. Until then, expect to see even more media catch on to the excitement surrounding the Cardinals' bats.