Why the Cardinals need Brendan Donovan to be their Ben Zobrist, not primary 2B
Why Brendan Donovan needs to start at five different positions in 2023
During the 2022 season, Donovan played 38 games at second base, 27 in the outfield, 31 at third base, 16 at first base, 16 in the designated hitter spot, and 7 games at shortstop for St. Louis. While second base was his most played position, it accounted for just 29% of his total games during the year.
I would expect that number to rise this next year, but I still believe Donovan should fill a similar role once again in 2022. Few teams in baseball have a player that can long 40 or more games at multiple different positions and plays them at an above-average level, but the Cardinals have that luxury in Donovan. He really does fit the mold of former utility man Ben Zobrist, who played all over the diamond for the Tampa Bay Rays, Oakland Athletics, Kansas City Royals, and Chicago Cubs, and being a part of two World Series teams in the process.
Donovan posted a .394 OBP in 2022, and if he comes near that again in 2023, he would need to be a part of the Cardinals lineup on an everyday basis. Again, he'd be a very good everyday second baseman, a top 10 one at that, but moving him around the diamond allows the Cardinals to maximize their talent on a daily basis instead.
This is especially true if the Cardinals want to continue the development of Nolan Gorman. Gorman has been cast aside by many fans (as I referred to earlier), especially compared to the hype he was receiving back in May. Gorman was a top-20 prospect in all of baseball last season and continued to show his elite power in his first take of big league action, blasting 14 HR in 89 games. Gorman struggled with strikeouts during his rookie campaign and saw his OPS drop to .661 during the second half before being sent back down to Triple-A Memphis. Still, his power is undeniable.
If the club still believes Gorman can be an impact back, they need to find him consistent at-bats. Letting him be the designated hitter against right-handed pitching will go a long way toward that, but with so many other DH options as well, the club should let Gorman get plenty of run at second base as well. Gorman's continued development is a key part of the Cardinals' future, whether as a long-term answer in their lineup or a trade piece, so the Cardinals must continue to invest in him.
So how can the Cardinals make sure they still get plenty of at-bats for Donovan as well? Let's take a look at how his starts can break down throughout the year to be an everyday player but not clog up first base.