The St Louis Cardinals players and fans would all like to forget about the disaster that was the 2023 Baseball season seeing the Cardinals finish dead last in the NL Central twenty games below .500, with a 71-91 record. With the Division-winning Brewers trading away Corbin Burnes and questions surrounding their pitching staff the NL Central currently is up for grabs. The Reds and Cubs are two teams looking to make some news this season. The Cardinals of all the teams in the Division made the most noise in free agency early and often signing three new starting pitchers to the roster before the Christmas Holiday.
The Cardinals rebuilt their starting rotation by signing Sonny Gray, Lance Lynn, and Kyle Gibson this offseason. Gray spent the last two seasons with the Minnesota Twins starting 32 games last season for the Twins going 8-8 over 184 innings. Last season Gray was just shy of a strikeout per inning, with 183 strikeouts last year. He had a 2.79 ERA and a WHIP of 1.147. The Cardinals will be looking for Gray to be the staff’s ace.
Mikolas returns to the Cardinals after a very up-and-down season for the Red Birds last year. Mikolas is reliable starting over 33 games the last two seasons for the Cardinals with over 200 innings in each campaign. Last season he had 35 starts and 201.1 innings with a 9-13 record. Mikolas has never returned to the 2018 form when we saw him go 18-4 over 32 starts and a 2.83 ERA. Ever since 2018, he has yet to have another winning record in any season. In my opinion, he is a reliable arm in the rotation but lacks the swing-and-miss arsenal to be a true ace and fits better as a 3 or 4 starter. Last season he struck out 137 batters, had a 4.78 ERA, and a WHIP of 1.316 over 201.1 innings.
Gibson who signed with the Cardinals this offseason pitched for the Baltimore Orioles last season starting 33 games and pitching 192 innings for them in 2023. During those 33 starts last season, he went 15-9, with a 4.73 ERA, striking out 157 batters, and had a WHIP of 1.318. Gibson will bring another competent arm in the Cardinals rotation heading into the new season.
Steve Matz and Lance Lynn
The rest of the Cardinal rotation will be made up of Lance Lynn and Steve Mats. Mats pitched for the Cardinals last season while Lynn started 11 games for the Dodgers and 21 for the White Sox last season with a combined record of 13-11. Steve Matz went 4-7 for the Cardinals last season. Neither of these arms are top-of-the-rotation starters but will be serviceable at the back end of this revamped starting rotation this season.
The Cardinals traded away often injured Tyler O’Neil this offseason to the Red Sox so he is out of the mix for the Cardinals this season. The team has not added to the positional player area as they put a focus on the starting rotation this offseason. Masyn Winn will be handling the starting Shortstop role this coming season. For the Cardinals to bounce back this year they will need a solid second year from right fielder Jordan Walker who is one of the top prospects in recent years for the Cardinals. They have to find a way to score more runs. The Cardinals team did not have one player who scored 100 runs last year, and no member of the team had 100 RBIs. To compete in this division they will need more run production from the top and bottom of the lineup. The big bats in the middle need more baserunners in scoring position.
I think the Cardinals are a veteran club that could very easily work their way into the playoffs this year and could if things come together win the NL Central this year. While many have the division between the Reds and the Cubs, I believe that if the team stays healthy and the revamp rotation comes together this team can win 90 games and win the Central this year. I expect Sonny Gray to win 15-plus games and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jordan Walker with 20-plus home runs with over 80 RBIs this year. The final prediction is 90-72 with a first-place finish in the NL Central this year for the Cardinals.