In 2022, the St. Louis Cardinals had their first major award winner (Most Valuable Player, Cy Young Award, Rookie of the Year) since 2009 when first baseman/plain hamburger aficionado Paul Goldschmidt took home the award as the National League’s Most Valuable Player. You may be asking yourself–is this enough? Is winning the most major of the major awards in 2022 enough?
So who will be the most likely Cardinals to bring home more pieces of hardware in 2023?
#10–Alec Burleson, Rookie of the Year: Burleson’s lack of defined role entering the 2023 season is certainly a problem for him, but this is still a relatively acclaimed prospect who could theoretically play in the outfield or at first base. Being on the Opening Day roster certainly helps his case. I don’t think Burleson winning this award is terribly likely, but this is also the award that can be won without being a full-blown superstar.
#9–Tommy Edman, Most Valuable Player: My hoping pick to be the most valuable player on the Cardinals, Edman has a tougher road to being the top player in the entire National League–even with a 6.3 Wins Above Replacement 2022 season under his belt (which, mind you, was not enough to garner a single even down-ballot MVP vote last year), picking a guy who had 13 home runs and a good-not-great .725 OPS last year feels like a little bit of a stretch, but Edman is also playing shortstop this year, which should give him some more attention. Let’s put it this way: if Tommy Edman has a 6.3 WAR season at shortstop, I don’t think he’s winning MVP but I do think he’s getting some votes. If he can improve a little bit, we might have something here.
#8–Jack Flaherty, Cy Young Award: This is a matter of upside, and while Adam Wainwright actually does have sportsbook odds to win the Cy Young Award (at +10000; for the gambling averse, this is basically a 100/1 shot, which for the even more gambling averse, means it’s really unlikely to happen), while Flaherty does not, I’ve seen Jack Flaherty in legitimate Cy Young form far more recently than I have seen it from Wainwright. This isn’t about median projections–this is about who I think has potential, even if it is unlikely, to be the best pitcher in the National League in 2023. Not for nothing, of the top three Cy Young vote-getters in 2019, the year when Flaherty finished fourth, two (Jacob deGrom, Hyun Jin Ryu) are no longer in the National League and another (Max Scherzer) is going to turn 39 years old this year.
#7–Miles Mikolas, Cy Young Award: Even considering that he had major surgery in the middle of it, that Miles Mikolas has a sub-3.50 ERA as a Cardinal should be illuminating. On a team without an obvious ace, it is Mikolas who is getting the Opening Day start, which could present him with some narrative building, and as a pronounced innings-eater, this would give him one of the big points in favor of Sandy Alcantara last year (admittedly, the 2.28 ERA probably helped too). Mikolas has received Cy Young votes before and I believe in his ability to do it again, at least more than I believe in some other guys, and hey, this list goes to ten when there’s a maximum of three who could actually win.
#6–Jordan Montgomery, Cy Young Award: Jordan Montgomery was absolutely dynamic when he joined the Cardinals last year, and that was without an off-season with which to tailor his pitching style to the phenomenal infield defense behind him. In August 2022, Montgomery pitched like a Cy Young-caliber starter, and while I may not expect him to retain that in 2023, there’s at least some chance of it.
#5–Tyler O’Neill, Most Valuable Player: It’s a little bit of the Jack Flaherty principle. Do I think Tyler O’Neill is going to have a better season than Tommy Edman? Probably not, but O’Neill was an actual, real-life, MVP-caliber player just two years ago. If he can rekindle that offensive firepower–34 home runs with a .912 OPS, take advantage of rules designed to accelerate the running game with his tremendous speed, and have the allure of playing center field, then Tyler O’Neill absolutely has a chance. After all, the guy with the fourth-best odds in the American League of winning MVP right now is Julio Rodríguez, a (defensively questioned) center fielder whose 2022 OPS+ was a point lower than 2021 O’Neill.
#4–Matthew Liberatore, Rookie of the Year: Starting in Memphis obviously does not help. But at a position where injuries and ineffectiveness are a way of life, Liberatore might be the next guy up, and if he pitches like the Top 100 prospect he has been in the past, he could sneak past his more acclaimed teammate for top rookie honors. He had his shaky moments in 2022, but this MLB cameo may have allowed Liberatore to get the inevitable MLB growing pains out of the way before his candidacy really takes off.
#3–Paul Goldschmidt, Most Valuable Player: Paul Goldschmidt hasn’t had an MVP-caliber season since, um, last season, when he won MVP. Seems like a pretty straightforward case. Of course, Goldschmidt was a minor surprise to win the award last season, so back-to-backs may seem unlikely, but until Goldschmidt reaches Michael Jordan-esque “we’re just bored of giving it to the obvious guy” territory, I hardly consider being a previous winner to be a demerit.
#2–Nolan Arenado, Most Valuable Player: Man, Nolan Arenado spent years getting acclaim beyond his statistics–ten Gold Gloves when the stats say he deserves three or four, high MVP vote totals because he had high unadjusted statistics while playing his home games on the Moon–and then, when he has by far the best season of his career, in 2022, he was the best position player in the National League and only finished third. If you’re going to make an “it’s time” case for anyone in the National League MVP race, it’s probably Arenado, unless you consider Juan Soto’s impressive career on a fast track program, and even a strident Arenado skeptic such as myself fully acknowledges he should’ve probably won the award last year. I don’t think he’s going to repeat 2022, but if he does, he probably doesn’t even need to exceed it to take home the hardware.
#1–Jordan Walker, Rookie of the Year: Unlike Arenado or Goldschmidt, who are among the top ten or so favorites to win MVP, Jordan Walker is the favorite to win NL Rookie of the Year. The early favorites are Walker and Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Corbin Carroll, and while Carroll has the advantage of 115 productive MLB plate appearances, that he plays on a mediocre team and that he doesn’t feel as new and exciting as Walker could have some narrative demerits. Ultimately, if I had to put money on NL Rookie of the Year (which I do not and which I will not!), I would lean more towards Carroll than Walker, but early returns show a clear two-man race, and a race in which Walker could easily have the big, obvious numbers that voters love.