2023: Willson Contreras (3.4)
Well, no. The 2023 season speaks for itself and I’d rather not spend more time thinking about it. With the only losing season on this list, it should come as no surprise that the bWAR total of the leader is by far the lowest amongst all players included on this list.
What’s surprising is Contreras’s inclusion on this list. After being scrutinized for poor defense and pitch-calling early in the season, the front office temporarily moved Contreras to a DH role. After struggling and losing his confidence for part of the season, Contreras bounced back greatly, putting up a .264/.358/.467/.826 slashline and a 124 OPS+ exceeding his career averages.
While it’s true that bWAR doesn’t value catcher defense as much as it probably should, Contreras’s inclusion on this star-studded list will hopefully dissuade the front office from removing him from catching duties again next season, as rumors suggest. Doing so may result in yet another disaster season.
Ultimately, this fun case study probably falls into the category of stats that exist but do not matter. But, the Cardinals’ ability to accomplish this is a testament to their depth. Relying upon a few star players for success is risky, and the Cardinals have always found ways to bring in players who contribute to their success. Having star players is extremely important. This list is filled with Cardinals legends and future Hall of Famers, but surrounding those stars with a strong supporting cast is equally important, and the Cardinals have done just that.
I can’t wait to see which players will lead the team in bWAR in future seasons. Maybe Lars Nootbaar, who was on pace to lead the team if he had stayed healthy, will do it next year. Maybe Jordan Walker and his refined defense will truly break out. Nolan Gorman? Brendan Donovan? Tommy Edman? Sonny Gray? The possibilities are endless.