The Cardinals Biggest X-Factor for the 2023 season

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Jack Flaherty is the Cardinals biggest X-Factor in 2023

The St. Louis Cardinals are one of the more interesting teams in baseball heading into the 2023 season. They have MVP talents in the form of Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, exciting young talents like Jordan Walker and Lars Nootbaar, and a cast of supporting talent that could raise the club's ceiling or cause them to drift toward their floor.

There are a number of players who will greatly impact the club's ability to succeed in 2023, but none are as big of an X-Factor next season as starting pitcher Jack Flaherty.

Flaherty is entering his final year of control with the Cardinals, and was once one of the most exciting young starters in all of baseball. In his first full season in 2018, Flaherty went 8-9 with a 3.34 ERA in 151 innings of work, and flashed the signs of a pitcher who would be able to match up with anyone in baseball during his prime. The 2019 season further cemented that notion (more on that later), but injuries have robbed the now 27-year old of showing off his talent in recent years.

The Cardinals rotation is in flux as Flaherty is one of four starters who do not have a contract past 2023. The Cardinals have a solid five man group and pitching depth beyond those guys, but they lack a sure fire front-line starting pitcher, something that only Flaherty has the potential to be on this staff. Miles Mikolas and Jordan Montgomery have the ability to be really good number two starters for the club, but no one has the potential to anchor the rotation like Flaherty could.

Here are some reasons to be optimistic about Flaherty in 2023, and why his success could propel the Cardinals into true contention next season.