Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
Best-case scenario: Repeat of 2022
The reigning National League MVP, Paul Goldschmidt dominated for most of the season and was in Triple Crown discussion for a period until he cooled off near the end of the season and in the playoffs. Any semblance of that kind of production will have the Cardinals jumping for joy, even if isn’t quite at last season’s level. Goldschmidt is a longtime star in the game, and a typical season from him will help the team immensely.
Worst-case scenario: Age catches up and defense slips further
Goldschmidt is 35 years old, and age eventually comes for every player. There were some warning signs in his stats under the hood last season, including his expected numbers against sliders and fastballs among the worst in his career. His fielding also didn’t match up to most of his previous seasons, as he was only two defensive runs saved above average. A larger-than-expected drop-off could be looming.
Nolan Gorman, 2B
Best-case scenario: All-Star second baseman
Nolan Gorman showed signs of a breakout last season with his elite barrel rate, and his stats this spring have proven extremely promising. He hit .280 in Spring Training and showed immensely improved defense at the keystone, and with average defense there, Gorman can be an everyday player with monster power, potentially making his first All-Star team.
Worst-case scenario: One-dimensional player
In 2022, Gorman hit only .192 against fastballs, and if he still has issues against elite velocity, he’s going to rack up a lot of whiffs. Strikeouts will always be a part of his game, but if power becomes his only attribute and the Cardinals can’t trust him in the lineup every day, he may be an odd man out in a crowded infield, or he could end up as trade bait.
Ryan Helsley, RHP
Best-case scenario: One of the best closers in the game
Ryan Helsley possessed some ridiculous stats last season, including a 1.25 ERA and 13.1 strikeouts per nine innings, en route to grabbing the closing job. Helsley was fully healthy for the first time in his career, and barring an injury, a season resembling 2022 where the Cardinals can trot him out for the ninth inning with minimal worries is a real possibility. Expecting a repeat in the ERA department might be asking a bit much, but he has the skills to be an elite closer again.
Worst-case scenario: Loses closer’s job
Although unlikely, 2022 could prove to have been an aberration. Helsley was slightly more hittable in the second half of the season, although he was still very productive. His walk rate in 2021 was 5.1, and it was cut to 2.8 last year. If Helsley has trouble finding the strike zone and reverts to his previous years, he could lose his grip on the closer’s role.