1. The Cardinals will win 89 games and the NL Central division. But it will be closer than expected, with the Brewers finishing only two games behind the Redbirds. Milwaukee’s edge in starting pitching will keep the race tight. But I have a caveat: if the St. Louis offense blasts off, they’ll win the Central by a more comfortable margin.
2. Postseason? Unfortunately, we’ll see another early exit for the Cardinals. Could they make a run, and will I be wrong? Possibly. But the Cards are 1-9 in their last 10 postseason games, so it’s up to them to prove they’re capable of making a postseason charge.
3. Five Cardinals will warrant selection to the NL All-Star roster: Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, Lars Nootbaar, Willson Contreras and closer Ryan Helsley. But the three who will actually make it are Goldschmidt, Arenado and Helsley.
4. In his age-35 season, Goldschmidt won’t match his MVP-season numbers from last year, when he clubbed 35 homers and led the league in slugging percentage, OPS, and OPS+. His 180 OPS+, 80 percent above league average last season, was the best of Goldy’s career. In 2023 his OPS+ will be in the 140 range – which is still 40% above average.
5. Jack Flaherty: 150 innings, a 3.90 fielding independent ERA (aka FIP), and a 25 percent strikeout rate. I’ll take that. He hasn’t pitched more than 78 innings in a season since supplying 196 IP in 2019, so his pitching health and endurance will be key here.
6. Jordan Walker: 120 games, 22 home runs, and a .760 OPS. It won’t be as easy as Walker — who turns 21 in May — made it look early in spring training. And MLB pitchers will explore his vulnerabilities. But Walker is mature, poised and highly intelligent. He will get through the hard parts. This season will be a solid building block for Walker, and he’ll use it to launch a spectacular 2024. My friend and “Seeing Red” podcast partner Will Leitch has Walker down for at least 30 home runs this season.
7. Shortstop phenom Masyn Winn will be promoted to the big club at the All-Star break. Paul DeJong will be gone by then. This is the Jhonny Peralta scenario that I’ve talked about several times. The Cardinals cut the offensively-collapsed Peralta loose in the final year of his guaranteed contract (in June 2017), and gave the shortstop job to DeJong – who had 25 homers and a .532 slugging percentage that year.
8. Nolan Arenado, same as it ever was. Clockwork consistency. He’ll post his third consecutive season of 30+ homers, 100+ RBI and another Gold Glove as a Cardinal. He’ll be STL’s top candidate for NL MVP.
9. Tyler O’Neill: look out for injuries. That’s a predictable prediction, eh? By playing center field and doing the extra high-speed sprinting and wall-banging that’s part of the job out there, O’Neill will get hurt while playing defense. He will head to the IL at least one time this season. Assuming that there aren’t other injury issues, O’Neill will put up 20+ homers and post a slugging percentage of around .480.
10. During his time on the IL, Adam Wainwright will heal up, strengthen his legs, and pitch capably upon returning. His velocity is an issue, as is the erosion with his swing-and-miss stuff. But Wainwright is backed by a fantastic defense and still has the craftiness to mystify hitters. Because he’ll miss time, Wainwright will have more stamina late in the season — and that’s a potential plus for a 41-year old.
11. Tommy Edman will take advantage of the new rules to steal between 40-45 bases. And that’s a conservative estimate. If he stays healthy and doesn’t get worn down, 50 steals are possible.
12. Steven Matz will have a surprisingly good season. I throw out 2022, his first year as a Cardinal. I think of 2021. As a Blue Jay, Matz had a 2.55 FIP in starts against the three best teams in the AL East that year: Boston, Tampa Bay, and New York. Matz had an injury-torn 2022 for the Cardinals, but even with the disruptions he still posted a strikeout rate of 26 percent. Matz was 14-7 with a 3.79 FIP for Toronto in ‘21 and that looks about right for 2023. The hard-luck Matz had a 3.78 FIP for the Cardinals in 2022.
13. Lars Nootbaar will live up to the hype in 2023. Last season, once he got a full-time opportunity, Noot had a .373 OBP and .514 slugging percentage over his final 73 games, and nearly had as many walks (42) as strikeouts (44.) During that time, 53 percent of his hits went for extra bases – 14 doubles, three triples and 12 homers. This was not a fluke. The talent is real, and his metrics are resoundingly impressive.
14. Jordan Montgomery will make a push for a free-agent contract and that will bring out his best. He has a lot at stake, and his motivation level will be high. But Montgomery will be pitching with added pressure as he tries to maximize his free-agent value. Though he had a couple of bad outings late in the season – no big deal – Monty had a 3.11 ERA in 11 starts for the Cardinals after being acquired from the Yankees. The Redbirds went 8-3 in his starts. In 2023 he’ll win 15 games and post an ERA of around 3.55.
15. Willson Contreras will deliver power, with 20+ homers and a slugging percentage of around .470 at the catcher position. I believe he’ll improve defensively because he’s been working awfully hard at pitch-framing and blocking pitches. He’s amped for several reasons: (A) to impress the Cardinals; (B) to make his idol Yadier Molina proud; (C) to prove his critics wrong; (D) to make the Cubs realize they made a mistake by letting him walk to free agency. Hell, Contreras may hit 25 homers – but Busch Stadium may have something to say about that.
16. Nolan Gorman will step up and slam 25 homers this season. He’ll get a ton of at-bats as a DH, which gives him plenty of time to focus on his hitting. He put in considerable time this past offseason to make adjustments on high fastballs, and that effort will pay off.
17. President of baseball OPS John Mozeliak will add at least one starting pitcher before the 2023 trade deadline. That’s worked well for the Cardinals over the last two years, with Mozeliak trading for J.A. Happ and Jon Lester in 2021, and acquiring Jose Quintana and Jordan Montgomery in 2022. The Cardinals went 31-15 in games started by those four pitchers. And I think key relievers Giovanny Gallegos and Jordan Hicks will struggle, so Mozeliak may have to go shopping for bullpen help.
18. Expect another impressive year from Brendan Donovan. His onbase percentage will be around .390, a slight drop from last season – and still very good. And he’ll hit for more power, with a slugging percentage north of .400.
19. The arrow is pointing up for Dylan Carlson. He’ll receive more action than many expect, simply because manager Oli Marmol will concoct lineups to get plenty of playing time for his top four outfielders. Marmol will set up Carlson for advantageous matchups, and many of Carlson’s at-bats will come against lefty pitching. Carlson has a career .492 slug against LHP but most prove he can conquer righties.
20. Rookie Alec Burleson will give the Cardinals a good batting average – with power – as a role player. We’ll see him pinch-hit, play some corner outfield, some first base and become a part of the DH committee. The dude can be a hitting machine if he comes through. He looms as a sleeper candidate for the biggest surprise among Cardinal hitters.
21. Miles Mikolas will have a strong year. Why wouldn’t he? In his three healthy seasons he’s averaged 3.3 fWAR, 195 and ⅔ innings, and pitched to a 3.46 ERA. More of that is coming in 2023. During his three healthy seasons as a Cardinal he’s been selected for two NL All-Star teams and finished third in the NL Cy Young voting in 2018. He’s underrated.
22. The Cardinals will benefit from the banning of defensive shifts. The ban won’t impact their pitchers that much, because the Cardinals weren’t a shift-heavy defense in 2022, ranking 26th in the majors in shift percentage. But the removal of defensive shifts will help Nolan Gorman, Tommy Edman, Lars Nootbaar, Dylan Carlson (batting left-handed), Brendan Donovan and Alec Burleson hit for a higher batting average.
23. I’m oddly optimistic about the St. Louis rotation for 2023. (Where are my meds? I think I need ’em. This group will outperform its latest ranking from FanGraphs, which listed St. Louis with the 20th-best rotation in the majors earlier this week. That isn’t saying much, and the rotation is still the team’s primary concern. But I feel a little better about the starting pitching going into the season, and Jake Woodford will be above-average as a fill-in for Wainwright.
Thanks for reading …
Bernie invites you to listen to his sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS-AM. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the show podcast at 590thefan.com or the 590 app.
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Listen to the “Seeing Red” podcast on the Cardinals, featuring Will Leitch and Miklasz. It’s available on your preferred podcast platform. Or follow @seeingredpod on Twitter for a direct link. We have a new “Seeing Red” available today, March 28.
All stats used in this column were sourced from FanGraphs and Baseball Reference.
For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.
While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.
Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.