Nolan Arenado, 3B
Best-case scenario: MVP year
Nolan Arenado finished third in MVP voting last season, and it’s possible that he ascends even further in 2023. He hit .385 in the World Baseball Classic, and the last time he played in it, in 2017, he hit .357 in his first 15 games with the Colorado Rockies. Arenado’s enormous number of pulled fly balls and lack of strikeouts make him among the most dangerous hitters in the game, and he is still possibly the greatest fielder at third base in the game’s history. An MVP year wouldn’t be surprising.
Worst-case scenario: 2021 repeat and poor playoff production
Arenado hit only .255 in 2021, albeit with 34 home runs and 105 RBIs, and it would be disappointing if he returned to those types of numbers. It seems unlikely since it appears he has adjusted to the usually offense-suppressing Busch Stadium. A repeat of his lackluster playoffs last year would also put a large dent in the team’s chances of going far in the postseason.
Alec Burleson, OF
Best-case scenario: Fourth outfielder
Alec Burleson started Spring Training slowly, but he picked it up over the last several games. A lot of it was rotten luck, as he displayed strong exit velocity throughout the spring. If Burleson can continue hitting the ball hard, there is a small chance he could leapfrog whomever the Cardinals appoint as their fourth outfielder, especially if they demote Jordan Walker to season him in Triple-A.
Worst-case scenario: Can’t hold a major league role
Burleson has a tentative hold on his roster spot, and Juan Yepez could be breathing down his neck in terms of a bench outfield role. Burleson is not an outstanding fielder, so he needs to hit to be able to keep a bench role. If he can’t get into a groove with just occasional playing time, he’ll likely be optioned to Memphis, a place where he has nothing to prove. Burleson is also a potential trade candidate; the Cardinals have a young outfield, and Burleson would likely develop faster if he’s on another team.
Dylan Carlson, OF
Best-case scenario: Everyday outfielder
It’s clear that Dylan Carlson can hit left-handed pitchers well, and if he is able to make strides against right-handers, Carlson could be a strong outfielder able to play all three positions. Carlson hit .275 with three home runs this spring, and over the offseason, he focused on adding muscle to increase his power production. A season with around 20 home runs isn’t out of the question.
Worst-case scenario: Fourth outfielder
While Carlson’s OPS against righties is .870, it’s a paltry .690 against lefties. With Jordan Walker likely to take a starting outfield spot, Carlson could be the odd man out if he doesn’t improve on that. He is still young at 24, and he could be of value to another team that believes it can get production out of him from the left side of the plate.