The DH has officially arrived in the National League. The baseball-progressives cheer, and the traditionalists sigh. No matter what side of the issue St. Louis Cardinals
fans lie on, there will officially be a designated hitter in the Cards lineup in 2022 and beyond. Sadly, there will be no more gritty Adam Wainwright at-bats
or flat-out hilarious Bartolo Colon homers
. But it does open up some exciting possibilities for how the Cardinals can structure their lineup. Here are six options the Cardinals could utilize in the DH role, three within the organization and three outside the organization.
Cardinals DH Candidates
1. Lars Nootbaar
First, Lars Nootbar is perhaps the most obvious candidate to start 2022 as the Cardinals DH. Through quality at-bats, clutch hits, and signs of power in his rookie 2021 season, Nootbar earned the confidence of the Cardinals’ front office and fans. Furthermore, being a left-handed bat increases the likelihood that the job will be Noot’s to lose. If he is not the DH, he will likely be a fourth outfielder/lefty bat off the bench. Since there will be no more pinch-hitting for pitchers, this previously valuable role is not as crucial moving forward. It seems like an under-utilization of Nootbaar’s hitting.
2. Nolan Gorman
The exciting, power-hitting infielder is widely predicted to break camp on the big-league roster. The Cardinals infield is presumably already in place with Nolan Arenado at third, Tommy Edman at second, and some combination of Paul DeJong and Edmundo Sosa at short. The DH role would be a perfect opportunity to get Gorman consistent at-bats while keeping the infield intact. Unless the Cardinals opt to slide Tommy Edman to short and have Gorman fill in at second, the DH role seems to be the only way the young infielder would get consistent playing time in 2022.
3. Juan Yepez
Another power-hitting prospect the Cardinals could turn to is Juan Yepez. The righty had a breakout 2021 season and was even on the 2021 playoff roster, illustrating the belief the Cardinals have in him. Yepez’s path into this role would be as a platoon with Gorman. Gorman would face right-handed starters, whereas Yepez would face the southpaws. The fact that Yepez has played both corner infield and corner outfield makes this even more possible. When Gorman starts, Yepez could act as a bat off the bench similar to the role Jose Rondon played for the Cardinals in 2021.
1. Kyle Schwarber
The most widely talked about free agent that the Cardinals could acquire is Schwarber. The switch-hitting, power-hitting, on-base machine that Schwarber is would be a perfect fit in nearly any lineup, and the Cardinals are no different. Cardinal fans have been buzzing about the prospect of Schwarber for months now, and with the end of the lockout looming, the prospect of going after Schwarber is looming as well. If the front office decides to go this route, expect a high-profile trade of some prospects. Adding Schwarber to the mix would make things quite crowded in the left-handed bat department for the Cardinals.
2. Joc Pederson
After a couple of down years for Joc, this could be a low-risk high reward option for the Cardinals. However, Pederson will turn 30 this season, meaning his value will start to decline despite still having several quality years of hitting left in him. If the Cardinals could snag him at a discount after the past two seasons, and Joc were to return to his consistent 25 homer power with above average OPS, the Cardinals could have a fit in the DH role for the foreseeable future. However, similar to Schwarber, expect the Cardinals to make some moves with younger bats if they sign Pederson.
3. Albert Pujols
We must at least acknowledge the romantic possibility of bringing Albert back for a farewell campaign in St. Louis. Without a doubt, there are better options on paper than Albert. But when taking a closer look at the Cardinals’ roster, it may not be as crazy as it sounds. The Cardinals have a surplus of quality left-handed bats that could serve as the everyday DH against right-handed pitching. Pujols, despite his age, is still a threat against left-handed pitching. It is not at all outside the realm of possibility that the Cardinals could sign Pujols as a platoon DH to complement Nolan Gorman or Lars Nootbaar. However, this would relegate Juan Yepez to anotehr year in the minors or to be traded. But if the Cardinals were to sign Albert, the farewell trio of Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina, and Albert Pujols would pack stadiums around the nation for the entirety of 2022.