Why the Cardinals need Brendan Donovan to be their Ben Zobrist, not primary 2B

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How Brendan Donovan's games should break down

First, let's look at the number of games he could fill in at other positions, and then break down how many games he should see at second base throughout the year. As the club's primary utility man, I think shooting for about 130 starts in a season is a good number, as he would still get enough off-days to recharge, and can be utilized some throughout the year as a late-game substitution.

First, Donovan should start at third base during any game if Nolan Arenado is not playing the position. He is easily their best option to play there when Arenado is not. In 2022, there were 31 games that Arenado either was the DH or had the day off, so let's give 31 starts again to Donovan at third.

Next up is first base. Goldschmidt logged 128 games at first in 2022, and as the club continues to try and save his bat as he ages, I could see him being the DH and resting even a bit more in 2023. Let's say he only plays first base 120 times in 2023. Donovan can take half of those starts then, and Juan Yepez can take the other half. So add 21 starts for Donovan at first base.

Shortstop seems like the most interesting position for Donovan to get starts at. If Paul DeJong struggles again in 2023, the club could consider giving increased starts at shortstop to Donovan instead. Honestly, unless DeJong is DFA-worthy, I don't think the club will have Donovan play there all that often. Let's give Donovan 5 starts there, but assume DeJong gets the majority of those.

While Donovan did see significant time in the outfield last year, I don't think St. Louis will need him to start any games out there next season. With Lars Nootbaar, Tyler O'Neill, Dylan Carlson, Jordan Walker, and Alec Burleson all already fighting for at-bats out there, I think Donovan's outfield usage will more so come in later game situations if the club wants to move him around due to lineup changes.

Let's assume the club will let him DH a few times again in 2023, so add another 5 starts there. So between first base, third base, shortstop, and designated hitter, that is 63 starts accounted for, leaving 77 games for Donovan to start at second base in 2023. While that number may seem low, it would mean he starts about 48% of the club's games at second base and leaves the other 52% for Gorman. The majority of Gorman's starts at second base would come when Donovan is filling in for another regular, or he is getting time off himself. If Gorman struggles in 2023, then Donovan can find himself playing second base more often than that, but this has to be the ideal scenario for St. Louis.

Donovan's ability to fill in for some of the Cardinals' starts around the diamond gives them lineup flexibility that few teams have and is something manager Oli Marmol should look to maintain next season. It also allows the Cardinals to continue to develop their young bats like Yepez, Gorman, and the outfield bats, by not taking away too many opportunities from them.

How do you think the Cardinals will utilize Donovan in 2023? Comment below.

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