Bold predictions for the 2023 Cardinals

December 30th, 2022

This story was excerpted from John Denton's Cardinals Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

With Christmas having passed, being in that awkward time before the dawn of the new year, I got to thinking about -- what else? -- baseball. Oh, it won’t be long now until gloves will be popping, hitters will be smashing BP fastballs and the warm Florida sun will be making snow-covered northern folks jealous and plotting their Spring Training trips.

Undoubtedly, Spring Training will have a distinctly different feel this year, especially around the Cardinals’ headquarters. For the first time in nearly two decades, Yadier Molina won’t be arriving shortly after sunrise to get in his catching work. Albert Pujols, who electrified St. Louis fans with his magical return and his charge to 700 home runs and beyond, could probably still hit 20-plus long balls, but he, too, will be absent.

Heck, even Cardinal cornerstone Adam Wainwright, who signed on for one final season, will be away from the team while competing for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. Wainwright, whom USA manager Mark DeRosa said has been the squad’s best recruiter, will be joined by fellow Cardinals Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado and Miles Mikolas on the roster.

With so much change afoot, it got me thinking about how things will play out in Spring Training and in the 2023 season. Here are some fearless predictions for the season ahead.

The Cardinals will sign Mikolas and Jordan Montgomery to extensions during Spring Training
The Cards have something of a mini crisis looming with Steven Matz being the only starting pitcher currently signed beyond 2023 (though several younger pitchers are not yet eligible for free agency). They will work to ink Mikolas and Montgomery -- no easy task considering the soaring costs for pitchers -- to multiyear deals. Mikolas proved himself as a workhorse and has earned a new deal, while Montgomery’s profile as a sinker-balling lefty lines up perfectly in Busch Stadium. The franchise will want to see Jack Flaherty healthy for a season before starting talks.

Cards' top prospect Jordan Walker will get every chance to make the Opening Day roster
Walker might lead the Cardinals in at-bats and innings this spring as he tries to prove he’s big league ready at 20. Manager Oliver Marmol loves competition, and he wants to see how incumbent outfielders Tyler O’Neill, Dylan Carlson and Lars Nootbaar respond to being challenged by the 6-foot-5, 220-pound Walker.

Before the season opener or the Trade Deadline, the Cardinals will deal an outfielder (likely O’Neill or Nootbaar) for pitching help
That will happen when Walker takes over in right field.

Relievers Gordon Graceffo and Connor Thomas will make the Opening Day roster
Graceffo told me this week that he has followed the Cardinals’ orders and bulked up, and he has the kind of swing-and-miss stuff the team needs. Thomas turned around the trajectory of his career by developing a devastating cutter.

Tommy Edman will win another Gold Glove
Edman, one of the Cardinals’ most valuable players, had the defensive numbers to win in 2022, but splitting time at second cost him. This season, he’ll nab a top defensive honor at shortstop.

Having passed up a chance at free agency and possibly an extra $100 million, Arenado will be rewarded with some good karma
He will be the Cardinal to win the NL MVP this season.

The Cardinals will win the division, but they will suffer more postseason frustration
St. Louis will win a weak NL Central by double-digit games, but it will again come up short against big spenders such as the Mets, the Phillies and the Padres.

Quick predictions
Energized by being back in a playoff chase, catcher Willson Contreras will smash 25 home runs. … While Brendan Donovan will start at second base, Nolan Gorman will be the Opening Day DH. … Still irked by his late-season struggles, Goldschmidt will make another run at the NL Triple Crown. … Wainwright will fall short of winning 15 games to tie for second most career wins in Cards history, but he will pitch and win a playoff game this time around. … Carlson will hit righties well.