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Cardinals 2024 Projections: Infielders and Others

Welcome back to my 2024 Projections, Part III here has catchers and outfielders under the microscope. 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 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 Chase Davis) who could likely not even sniff a major league debut in 2024, take it as just what this guy could do given the opportunity in 2024 alone, not that he will get (checks notes) 349 plate appearances in 2024 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 2024 projections primer for more details.


Paul Goldschmidt came out of the 2022 season with an MVP in his hand and then promptly put up an OPS ~170 points lower than that in 2023 at the age of 35. To say that is concerning is an understatement. What's more encouraging are his underlying statistics from the past two years. In fact, if I asked you which season was which in this image below, could you tell me?

If you said that the season listed on top was Goldschmidt's 2023, then you are correct. Yes, the metrics had his expected statistics BETTER than his expected stats in 2022, but he lost ~170 points of OPS from 2022-2023. Unbelievable, no? Even more unbelievable for haters of launch angle, he performed much worse while lowering his launch angle 3 degrees? So what about 2024?

Well, my projections have him performing at 36 years old much closer to his age 35 stats than prior to his age 35 season, unfortunately. They're not buying big on a bounce back, not even THE GOOD. If this were to come to pass, the Cardinals could have a troubling season if they're counting on him in the 2 or 3 hole again.


Next I'm moving on to the other cornerstone, Nolan Arenado. He's also coming off of one of his worst career seasons, at age 32. Entering age 33, for a player who is not built super athletically, this could be really bad.

In two of his three seasons since joining the Cardinals he's had OBPs of .312 and .315 and slugging percentages under .500. Last year was his first season with less than 30 homers and 100 RBI since 2014 (excluding the shortened 2020 season). He also had his least doubles ever (non-2020 season) AND didn't win a gold glove for the first time in his career.

While I personally believe a bounce back year could very well be coming for a rejuvenated, upset about how he played projections are not so rosy. They have him - even in THE GOOD season - selling him just short of a 30 HR season and barely getting to 100 RBI. If both cornerstones do this? Oof. What is in store for the Cardinals then? Let's keep reading the projections ahead to find out one potential reality.


Last offseason, Brendan Donovan made changes to his swing and got a new puck-style knob bat. He went from 468 PA of 281/394/379/773 ball to 371 PA of 284/365/422/787 ball after that winter of change. He decided to emphasize power a bit more than his eye (which was "elite" and dropped to simply "well above average" in order to get his slugging above his on base percentage. It worked and he didn't sacrifice any batting average in order to do it. That is one of the best displays of adding pop without sacrificing much otherwise that the Cardinals have seen.

Matt Carpenter (more about him later) did the same in the mid-2010s when he went from being a 293/379/433/812 guy in his first 1785 PA from 2011-2014 to being a 260/376/497/873 guys in his next 2530 PA from 2015-2018. His exchange came in the form of losing 30 points of batting average for a 65 point gain in slugging without sacrificing OBP. Donovan's was no sacrifice in average but gaining 45 points of SLG for 30 points of OBP. While I like Carpenter's exchange better (as OBP is so important at the top of the order), this was an impressive display. I can't wait to see what 2024 holds for Donovan.

My projections like Donovan getting back over 400 PA, nearly 500 in THE GOOD projections, but expect him to drop just a bit on batting average while regaining a tiny bit of OBP and losing a tiny bit of SLG. The OPS would be his worst in the majors unless he hits THE GOOD projections. I'm not sure what my system is seeing here exactly. Not sure I agree with it at all.


Nolan Gorman made some of the biggest strides on the team last year, becoming a huge power threat at the plate in 2023 and even moreso entering 2024. His 27 home runs in just 464 PA is pace for 35 in a full 600 PA season. Entering his age 24 season he should be getting to even more power - letting fans, sportswriters, podcast and radio hosts, and I'm sure the team drooling over a potential 40 homer left-handed bat sandwiched between Goldy at 3 and Arenado at 5 (or something like that).

Gorman really made strides all over the field last year and should be considered an average-ish defender at 2B now and while Gorman is streaky his highs are so high he can carry an offense for a while. He also showed he can hit lefties - as much as the club has attempted to shield him from that as much as possible.

My projections see him reaching that next step where his batting average raises along with his on base staying the same or raising slightly, and his slugging staying fairly static. If he turns into THE GOOD version of this in 2024, then he should just be put in at the #4 spot and given the full season run there as often as his back allows him to play.


Masyn Winn is the wildcard on the infield. He's going to be given a full run at shortstop to start the season - a deserved one at that. He was given a bit of time to adjust to the majors at the very end of 2023 and did fine defensively (a little below average but glimpses of him being above average in the future - especially that golden arm of his.

Winn struggled mightily at the plate with a 29 wRC+ in 137 PA. It's a truly putrid start to his career that means absolutely nothing for this year except that he has now seen the majors and is going to be more up to speed to start 2024. He might be the only good thing other than Wainwright's 200th win to have come out of the end of the season - if he can hold his own at the plate to start this year because of the exposure he got last year.

We're looking at basically can 2024 Winn at the plate be 2023 Tommy Edman at the plate while also playing the shortstop position at a much higher level than he did in 2023? That's a tall ask, but it's possible, sure. Winn has shown the propensity to be a much better player in his second go around at a level in the minors and I see no reason that couldn't happen again even with the steeper learning curve of the majors. Does that mean it will happen? Of course not.


The newest Cardinal is one of the oldest on the roster in the 37 year old, 13 year vet, Brandon Crawford. He will quite possibly get the first opportunity to spell Masyn Winn at SS if Winn falters badly - or as Derrick Goold and others like to point it, IF others fail to hit and Winn is also not hitting.

Crawford had a 93 wRC+ his first 10 seasons in the majors. He then exploded for a 140 wRC+ in year 11 (2021) and since then has a 78 wRC+. Crawford is either entering his age 37 season in a serious decline phase that could make Winn's 2023 look about right for the SS position or is due for some positive regression. I'm not sure which but it isn't looking good.

My projections see Crawford as a "he is what he is" at this point. Only a 16 PA gap between THE BAD and THE GOOD and only a .021 OPS gap. They think they've got him narrowed down quite nicely for 2024. I'll just say I hope they're low.


The guy I'm more excited to find out about if he can be a potential fill in for Winn if something goes wrong is Thomas Saggese. He's the reigning Texas League MVP that we got in return (along with others) for Jordan Montgomery and Chris Stratton when we unladed the two Free Agents to be at the trade deadline in 2023.

Saggese impressed last year but honestly wasn't all that much better statistically in 2023 than he was in 2022 - which means it's been a two year stretch in which he's been fantastic. However, all but 63 of his 1071 plate appearances in the last two years have come at the AA level or lower. The other good news is that he's still entering just his age 22 season.

As tight a gap as my projections had for Brandon Crawford, they are extremely unsure of what to expect from the promising Saggese with under 100 PA at AAA. They see him anywhere from replacement level or slightly below to a budding star. The bigger problem to me is that he simply needs reps on the infield to be more than just a second baseman, from what I hear. Third base could be a good position for him...shortstop seems a bit of a stretch. However, I don't think the Cardinals can afford to not prep him for any and all infield positions.


Like Lance Lynn in Part I of my projections, Matt Carpenter is one of my favorite Cardinals ever. I absolutely loved watching him in his first go around with the Cardinals. However, like Lance Lynn, I really dislike the re-signing of the guy this offseason and hope beyond hope that I get proved wrong on both accounts.

Matt Carpenter had an awful last month of 2018, in an otherwise MVP level season. He had one of the hottest non-Albert Pujols / Mark McGwire 14-16 week stretches I've ever seen in Cardinals baseball in my lifetime and then September 2018 hit. Since then his 2019 was mid at best, then 2020 was a lost season for him. 2021 was somehow even worse. He got released to free agency and played most of the season in 2022 in the minors before getting on with the Yankees for a third of a year in which he was red hot. He then had another fairly lost season with the Padres in 2023. Now the Cardinals have signed him to be their 26th man it seems.

I have double, triple, and quadruple checked to see if I have everything typed in correctly for Matt Carpenter in my projections because as bad as these are, I did not expect my projections to even be this high for the 38-year old DH/1B. I'd take THE GOOD out of him in a heart beat for this year rather than hoping for a post-All Star Break 2022 Albert Pujols stretch out of him. Of course, I'd love to see that be in 1/3 of the PA listed above - at most.


Luken Baker is someone I was going to put in "The Rest of the Infielders" at the end of this post, but as it turns out with Kennedy's release, I don't think we're going to have that section. Part of the reason for that is that I believe that the Cardinals could actually turn to Baker were there an injury to Goldschmidt. I'm not sure they want to after last year's major league stint, but Baker hit for nearly a 1200 OPS in AAA last year with over 30 homers in less than 400 PA. Dude basically had an extra base hit every other game played - every 7 PA. He drove in 98 runs in 380 PA in AAA.

Baker then came up to the majors and kinda crapped the bed, statistically. He hit one mammoth homer that I remember (had another one that I don't remember), but in 99 PA had an OPS under .650, for a guy who is a DH basically.

The projections really like the to-be 27 year old, however. Hopefully his second go around at the majors (were it to occur) goes much better than the first. All I know is if his THE BAD is that much higher than Carpenter's THE GOOD, then Carpenter's leadership sure as heck better be worth it.


Jose Fermin was a bit of an afterthought to me until Tommy Edman was not good to go to start the spring. Now with Brandon Crawford signed, he's turned into whatever is slightly above "a bit of an afterthought" but he's also the last man in this grouping of players, so I didn't want to make him his own "the rest of the infielders" category either. That's just mean.

Fermin was signed last year and ended up playing 61 PA of sub .600 OPS ball for the Birds on the Bat. The projections basically expect the same this year. In fact, they like him less than Carpenter.

Of course, Fermin at these numbers still might be more valuable than Carpenter since he can provide around league average defense at premium positions on the infield as a backup as opposed to basically being a backup DH.


Links to other posts in this Projection Series:


Next time, I'll be back with Part V of the projection series, Team Projections. But until then, have fun discussing any and all projections that you love, hate, or were waiting for with me on Twitter or Facebook!


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