Hello #STLCards fans! Welcome back for the fourth and final installment of our 2023 projections series, the infielders. Again this year, I will be looking to give you the Good, the Bad, and The Cerutti projections. The Cerutti is what my system projects for players this year. While the Good and the Bad aren’t necessarily the 90th and 10th percentile projections, respectively, or anything that mathematical. They are kind of the range I see these guys falling into with anything higher than THE GOOD or lower than THE BAD being completely destroying my projection system. So to speak.
This year during my projections, like last year's, I will not be predicting playing time for each individual. Instead, this is what my system spits out for plate appearances or innings pitched, so when you see a guy in the minors (like a Masyn Winn) who could likely not even sniff a major league debut in 2022, take it as just what this guy could do given the opportunity in 2023 alone, not that he will get (checks
notes) 447 plate appearances in 2023 with the MLB club. Please don't take this as his ceiling either. Literally only what my system spits out for this year prior to him playing any games in the minors at all.
If you want to read more about my process than that, please refer back to the projections primer from 2021 for more details.
Now, let's jump straight in to what my system says about reigning MVP, Paul Goldschmidt!
Paul Goldschmidt won the 2022 MVP by having a season that was far above whatever I wrote last year in this space. Honestly, what a season for the first baseman, in the year that our former MVP first baseman came back to play understudy to Goldschmidt's best year in the majors at age 34. What does my system say about him for age 35? Does Goldy age like a fine wine?
Well, this says yes! No, that's not 76 extra base hits and a 978 OPS, but hey it's still a 300/390/540 season, approximately!
But honestly, wouldn't you (without the MVP finish last year) totally take the 275/350/485/835 line on THE BAD out of a 35-year old first baseman? Because if you guaranteed me that over 600 PA I might have gone ahead and taken it any year of Goldy's Cardinals career...except for this one. Man I'm excited to see if he can be what my projections think he will be to follow up that MVP season.
Brendan Donovan surprised everyone last year by winning a Gold Glove. Of course, he won a GG that was created after the season was over (as far as I know) and that he said (and I agree) that his teammate Tommy Edman should have won, but he still has 1 more GG than I do at this point, so congrats to him.
What Brendan Donovan did not surprise these parts about was that he was going to be a major league hitter when he burst onto the scene as about a year ago (or more) I was calling for Donovan to be the opening day leadoff hitter in 2022. While he wasn't that, shortly after that he was basically the best man for the job in 2022.
Following up a 280/395/380/775 rookie campaign by hitting 270/370/415/785 is a bit to ask for Donovan, but if his spring looks anything like what his season will then I'm not asking enough. The dude has a .245 ISO on the spring and I'm simply asking him to go from an .098 ISO to a .143 one, over 100 points lower than his fabulous small sample spring.
Tommy Edman has worked himself from what I thought would be one of the better reserves we have had in the last decade into a major league shortstop somehow. Not just that, but into an earned starting shortstop role with a team that has a respectable chance in the league. That's pretty damn awesome.
Tommy Edman, looking at all of the best defensive statistics we have in today's game, is a fantastic defensive middle infielder no matter which spot you put him. He has worked himself into being at least a league average or so hitter as well. He is a well above average right-handed hitter against left-handed pitching, but struggles on the big side of the platoon - at least until last year. He was about league average in that last year as well.
My projections for this year foresee Edman being a slight step worse on offense than last year - likely a step back against lefties back towards his career norms. However, the opposite could well be true. THE GOOD is what I could see happening if Edman continues his progression against RHP as a lefty in the box. That would be, obviously, the best outcome that could occur for the Cardinals and Tommy Edman.
Nolan Arenado had a top 3 finish in the MVP voting last year and if you saw his stats or watched him play, you would know why. Holy cow.
Arenado had one of his best seasons ever, much less quite easily his best with the Cardinals (in two seasons). I do not see him being much better than those totals this year although I could see him being slightly worse, matching, or being slightly better - in that same ballpark, so to speak.
My Cerutti Projections have him just slightly worse than 2022, but at a still very good approximate 275/340/505/845 line with his customary 30ish homers and 100ish RBI and 75 runs scored with around 70 XBH. THE GOOD, meanwhile, adds about 15 runs, 10-15 XBH, and 20 RBI to those totals, though...so if we could get that out of him, that'd be great!
From one Nolan (Arenado) to the next, we find a player trying to establish his footing for his first full season in the majors in Nolan Gorman. I would be willing to wager that Gorman would be the first to admit that he didn't play up to what he wanted to be in the majors last year when given the opportunity. He was given very specific instructions by the club on what to fix to make himself not just into a viable major leaguer but one who can thrive in his role.
That was despite him already having an ISO near .200 and a per 600 plate appearance rate of 52 XBH and 27 HR! My projections have Gorman getting nearly a full season's worth of PAs at 535 and him finishing with a line 20 points better than last year in batting average, 11 points better in on base, and 35 points better in slugging. That would put his ISO at nearly .210 instead of around .190. That would put his average at or above the league average, and would give him around 50 XBH in those 53t5 PA. Quite good!
Gorman has shown that he has changed his approach at least slightly this spring and was one of three stand out hitters in my eyes, along with Jordan Walker (who was written up in my last projections post) and Masyn Winn (still to come here below). If that continues, the sky (not just THE GOOD) is the limit for him.
We go from someone I am very high on to someone I am very low on now. Paul DeJong was quite a good shortstop, especially with the power. Then, as I've documented before, he had too many injuries to his hands and wrists and now has been sapped of all of his power game and thus his biggest advantage as a hitter.
When your biggest advantage as a hitter disappears, you better hope that everyone else in the lineup can be absolutely studly with the bat. While that's the case, you now have a shortstop who might actually be better than you defensively AND with the bat - even against righties. That can spell doom.
You know what else can spell doom? My THE GOOD projections have DeJong barely better than his career averages. That's, ummmmm, not good. That's about where we'll leave this.
Juan Yepez was a surprising non-addition to the 26-man opening day roster to me. I really do believe I can understand this, but I really don't feel like I should have been put in that position because I don't believe Yepez should have been put in the position to be in Memphis to start the year.
My projections are quite all over the place, but THE CERUTTI and THE GOOD both have Yepez wildly outperforming last year's debut. I am surprised that the Cardinals are passing on a RHH who can probably put up around a 250 average, 320-330 OBP, and a slug around 475 in St. Louis. That just really surprises me a lot.
I know that Yepez will be up at some point this year and I hope he's ready to seize the opportunity, because I'm not sure (for some reason) that he's going to be getting the largest opportunity.
In sticking with the theme of players who are not in the majors as of yet, we turn next to a 21 year old in Masyn Winn. I was likely going to attempt to get him into my projections anyway, but I believe Winn's 2023 spring training catapulted him to the cusp of the majors to the point that I could see him debuting as early as post-All Star Break this season. I don't know that's the most likely outcome, but it's possible now, whereas when spring training started I don't believe that was the case.
Winn looks like a guy who, per my projections, would be a little outmatched offensively at this point in his MLB career, and thus his starting the season at AAA. With Winn's defense that he showed this spring, I think you could live with him at THE CERUTTI and would love him at THE GOOD as a 21 year old middle infielder, but if he's THE BAD right now, this team has way too much potential firepower to even consider it. Even at THE CERUTTI line it's a tough ask. I mean it's lower than Paul DeJong's projection.
Taylor Motter was a bit of a surprise to many this spring training. He was a surprise to me. However, he was also NOT a surprise to my system. My system LOVES the changes he's made the last two seasons in the minors.
Motter has 687 PA in the minors in the last two seasons, all at the AAA level (the highest level of the minors). Now, we know there is a gulf between MLB pitching and AAA pitching, however, Motter's line was basically 260/370/540/910 over those two seasons. This is a stark contrast compared to his major league line of just 191/262/309/572.
If I, personally, had to guess Motter's outcome for the 2023 season, it is not a Cardinals Devil Magic kind of season for him. I'd guess he's more on THE BAD end of my range of outcomes. Maybe I'm reading too much into his prior MLB data and not looking enough at recent minor league data - as my projections seem to be doing. Maybe I'm not. However, I will root like heck for the guy while he's wearing The Birds On The Bat. As I will with everyone one of these guys.
Here are the projections all together for easy reference: