Projecting the Cards' 2023 Opening Day roster

March 18th, 2023

JUPITER, Fla. -- Sitting atop a cabinet inside the Florida office of Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol is a brand new, boxed up Keurig espresso maker that he purchased for roughly $120 in the offseason to make sure he had a steady supply of caffeinated drinks for the long days of Spring Training.

However, Marmol has yet to use the machine because the Cardinals were thinking along the same lines in the offseason. The club supplied the spring weight room with a much fancier espresso maker that churns out drinks that are perfectly strong enough for Marmol’s tastes.

“Yeah, we’ve even got depth with our coffeemakers,” Marmol joked Saturday, referring to the logjam his Cardinals are facing as they try to trim their Opening Day roster to 26 players.

Opening Day at Busch Stadium against the Blue Jays is less than two weeks away, and Marmol figures the Cardinals have at least 34 players still battling for 26 roster spots. That number doesn’t even include 20-year-old Masyn Winn, the Cards' No. 2 prospect, who has been one of the most dynamic players in camp, but he has no shot of sticking because the Cardinals have Gold Glovers Tommy Edman and Brendan Donovan ahead of him at shortstop.

Joked Winn, who almost certainly will start the season at Triple-A Memphis: “I understand with the guys ahead of me, I could go 50-for-50 with 50 bombs in my next 50 at-bats, and look at who’s ahead of me.”

The Cardinals have other logjams in the outfield and the bullpen because of their strong depth of talent -- both at the MLB and MiLB levels.

Jordan Walker, MLB Pipeline’s No. 4-ranked prospect, came to camp with all eyes on him and, somehow, he has still exceeded expectations. He’s hit for power, he’s hit for singles, he’s run well for a 6-foot-5, 250-pounder and he’s fielded his position well. Clearly, the 20-year-old is on a collision course with greatness, and his talent is too undeniable to send him to Triple-A.

Of course, if Walker is the left-field starter on Opening Day -- and out there at least five days a week -- that means Dylan Carlson, Tyler O’Neill or international superstar Lars Nootbaar (See: Japanese pepper grinders) will be sitting or platooning. O’Neill is the likely starter in center, meaning Carlson and Nootbaar could be splitting time in right.

In the bullpen, six lefties -- led by Zack Thompson and his vastly improved curveball -- are vying for two spots. And with the starting rotation all set, Dakota Hudson, Jake Woodford and Drew VerHagen are scrapping for crumbs as a long reliever/spot starter.

Marmol knows he has some very difficult conversations ahead with players who deserve to be on MLB rosters, but some will end up at Triple-A Memphis. It’s a good problem to have, he said, but it will lead to some tricky decisions.

“You sit there and think some guys have options, and some guys don't, and you're going, ‘How do you leave with 13? And who gets left out?’” Marmol said of the 13 position players and 13 pitchers that will make up the 26-man roster. “There are going to be some guys that have contributed at a high level for us that do not break camp with us.

“It's a good problem to have,” Marmol said of his crowded roster. “We're not sitting here going, “Man, I wish we had a couple extra good players to fill this roster.’ Credit to a lot of people to be able to be in this position.”

Keeping in mind that the Cardinals have some difficult decisions ahead with their roster construction, here is a look at our Cardinals Roster Projection 3.0. We’ll update this roster projection once more before Opening Day.

Catcher: Willson Contreras
Contreras passed up a chance to play for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic to stay in camp with the Cards, and that move has paid off. He’s found his rhythm at the plate, and he’s built solid chemistry with the pitching staff.

First base: Paul Goldschmidt
Goldschmidt has been gone for a couple of weeks while playing in the WBC, and the Cardinals have no concerns about him being ready for the regular season because of the intense work he put in over the winter.

Second base: Brendan Donovan
Donovan added some muscle and had his swing analyzed this offseason, and he’s already seen the benefits of increased swing speeds. He’s hit four home runs this spring and wants to be a player who can drive the ball to the gaps more this season.

Shortstop: Tommy Edman
Edman is back from Japan where he played second base for Korea in the WBC. In addition to shooting for a Gold Glove at shortstop, Edman thinks he can steal 45 to 50 bases this season under MLB’s new rules.

Third base: Nolan Arenado
See: Goldschmidt, Paul. Like his superstar teammate, Arenado has hit well in the WBC, and he’s been ready for Opening Day since early February.

Outfielders: Tyler O’Neill, Lars Nootbaar, Jordan Walker
O’Neill, a two-time Gold Glove winner as a left fielder, will almost certainly be the starting center fielder. That’s bad news for Carlson, arguably the best defensive center fielder on the team. He’ll likely be in a platoon situation with Nootbaar. As for the 20-year-old Walker, I’ve had him on my Opening Day roster since January, and I’ve seen no reason to change after the way he’s led MLB in hits and ooooohs and ahhhhhs.

DH: Nolan Gorman
With the exception of Walker -- and maybe the 20-year-old Winn -- Gorman has been the team’s most impressive player in Spring Training. He adjusted his swing to better handle high fastballs and he’s moving much better in the field.

Bench/utility: Dylan Carlson, Juan Yepez, Andrew Knizner, Paul DeJong

Starting pitchers: RHP Adam Wainwright; RHP Miles Mikolas; LHP Jordan Montgomery; RHP Jack Flaherty; LHP Steven Matz
Already, there have been concerns about Wainwright’s velocity, and that’s before he left for the WBC. Mikolas could be the ace of the staff, and he could be close to signing a contract extension. Jack Flaherty and Steven Matz are major X-factors, and they have great seasons, the Cards likely will as well.

Relief pitchers: RHP Ryan Helsley; RHP Giovanny Gallegos; RHP Jordan Hicks; RHP Jake Woodford; RHP Andre Pallante; LHP Zack Thompson; LHP Packy Naughton; RHP Drew VerHagen
Helsley, an All-Star and an All-MLB Second Team performer last season, recently had a stretch with eight consecutive strikeouts over three outings. Gallegos closed out Mexico’s impressive win over Puerto Rico on Friday in the WBC. A standout last season, Pallante deserves to make the team, but he could get squeezed out by VerHagen or Hudson. Rule 5 pick Wilking Rodriguez has the stuff to stick, but a rough outing on Saturday might hurt his chances.