Three St. Louis Cardinals who will improve this year and two who will regress

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Regression: Brendan Donovan

Brendan Donovan had a marvelous debut season, finishing third in the National League Rookie of the Year voting. He hit .281 and demonstrated elite plate discipline, but he’s going to have a big test in front of him if he wants to come close to those numbers again.

Donovan’s exit velocity was in the 25th percentile of major league hitters, and his barreled ball percentage was only 3.4%, which placed him in the eighth percentile. It’s clear that power is not a part of Donovan’s game, and his outstanding walk and contact rate should help him get on base, but it doesn’t appear that he will be an extra-base threat. Pitchers aren’t going to shy away from you if they know the worst that can happen is a single.

This means that pitchers are likely going to attack Donovan aggressively in the zone and force him to swing. His ground ball percentage was 54.3% in 2022, and given his merely adequate speed, he’d be better served to hit the ball in the air more.

Donovan’s rookie year blasted most fans’ expectations out of the water, but there are adjustments he’ll need to make if he hopes to have anything resembling an encore. He’ll need to prove he can elevate the ball more and hit it harder; otherwise, he probably won’t be able to rely on his on-base percentage to prop up his numbers this time around.