This lineup construction would unleash the Cardinals offense and defense in 2024

This might not be the lineup the Cardinals use at full strength, but it should be.

Boston Red Sox v St. Louis Cardinals
Boston Red Sox v St. Louis Cardinals / Megan Briggs/GettyImages
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Lineup vs. left-handed pitching

2B Tommy Edman
1B Paul Goldschmidt
RF Jordan Walker
3B Nolan Arenado
C Willson Contreras
DH Nolan Gorman
LF Lars Nootbaar
SS Masyn Winn
CF Victor Scott II

Bench: UTL Brendan Donovan, C Ivan Herrera, OF Alec Burleson, INF Matt Carpenter

The major shift to this lineup is starting Tommy Edman over Brendan Donovan at second base (more on that in a moment) with Nolan Gorman shifting to designated hitter. This defensive lineup now has four plus-plus defenders in it, with three of them being up the middle, a huge difference from where the Cardinals were at in 2023.

If Dylan Carlson were on this roster, there'd be a strong argument for him to start against left-handed pitching, as he and Edman both have had a lot of success against lefties.

Carlson and Edman have carried pretty dramatic splits in their career. Carlson has a .672 OPS and 86 wRC+ against right-handed pitching in his career, while Edman isn't much better with a .703 OPS and 94 wRC+. But whenever they stack up against left-handed pitching, they are completely different players, with Carlson boasting a career .848 OPS and 135 wRC+ while Edman is a .803 OPS and 117 wRC+ guy against southpaws.

By inserting them into the lineup, Lars Nootbaar is the only guy in the lineup who you don't love the matchup for, which is why he is sliding down to 8th in the order. This also gives Edman a somewhat consistent role on the club, and then when you mix in the occasional outfield starts he'll get, and then the time he fills in at shortstop for Winn, he'll have more playing time than you'd expect from a reserve player.

For all of the talk that Gorman may struggle against left-handed pitching, he actually posted a .840 OPS and 130 wRC+ in those at-bats in 2023, albeit in just 86 plate appearances. Brendan Donovan is the one who's actually had a harder time against left-handed pitching, seeing his numbers drop to a .666 OPS and 102 wRC+ when facing a lefty.

Whenever the game gets past the 5th inning, the opposing manager is going to have to weigh the risks of potential pitching matchups. Bring in a right-handed pitcher to face Edman? The Cardinals can counter with Brendan Donovan, who has a career .801 OPS and 128 wRC+ against righties. You also have a weapon like Alec Burleson off the bench at all times, who thus far in Spring Training seems to be making good on the promise his bat provides.

Overall, the defense for this lineup is arguably the best it could possibly be from a position-to-position basis, something that really needs to be prioritized this year with their rotation. Lance Lynn, Kyle Gibson, and Miles Mikolas are all more on the pitch-to-contact end of things, and although Sonny Gray and Steven Matz have strikeout stuff, they both would still benefit from an improved defense behind them.

Recap

When taking a step back and looking at both lineups, there's a lot of promise baked in. Against right-handed pitching, the offense has an elite group one through seven in the order, with Winn and Scott providing some upside, albeit not guaranteed success, batting eight and ninth. Against, left-handed pitching, one through six is an elite group, with the seventh hitter of Nootbaar still being a great option in the lineup, with with his struggles against left-handed pitching. And once again, the promise with Winn and Scott is exciting to have batting at the bottom of the order.

The Cardinals maintain their offensive upside while also baking in some really helpful defense talent as well. To me, assuming Winn and Scott prove they are ready to play at the major league level, this is the lineup that sets St. Louis up for the most success possible in 2024.