St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Lars Nootbaar’s potential breakout has hit an early speed bump, as the team has placed the 25-year-old on the 10-day injured list retroactive to March 31.
Nootbaar became a trendy fantasy baseball sleeper entering the 2023 season after slashing .228/.340/.448 with 14 homers and four steals in 108 games last year and helping lead Japan to a win at the 2023 World Baseball Classic.
Lars Nootbaar injury update
4/11 Update: Nootbaar is nearing a return. He has yet to be activated from the 10-day IL, but there is optimism that he will be back soon. As of April 11, Nootbaar’s earliest return date is during the upcoming weekend series against the Pittsburgh Pirates, starting on Thursday, April 13.
Nootbaar started in left field for the Cardinals on Opening Day against the Toronto Blue Jays but was forced to leave the game early after injuring his hand while diving into third base. He was diagnosed with a left thumb contusion, and while St. Louis was initially optimistic that he could avoid an IL stint, the outfielder was still experiencing discomfort catching fly balls on Monday.
The Cardinals have yet to offer a concrete timetable for Nootbaar’s return, but there doesn’t seem to be too much concern about an extended absence. It’s a good sign that Nootbaar avoided any ligament damage, and it’s possible he could be ready to come off the IL as soon as he’s eligible on April 10. In the meantime, St. Louis has recalled Juan Yepez from Triple-A Memphis.
The Cardinals aren’t lacking for outfield depth between Tyler O’Neill, top prospect Jordan Walker and last year’s starting center fielder Dylan Carlson. But so far, the name to watch with Nootbaar on the shelf has been an unlikely one: rookie Alec Burleson.
The former 70th pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, Burleson has started all three games in left since Nootbaar’s injury and taken full advantage, batting .308 with a homer and two doubles. He tore up Triple-A last year, hitting .331 with 20 homers and four steals, so the skill set is intriguing — and if there’s a team to trust when it comes to maximizing a hitter’s potential, it’s the Cardinals (just look at Nootbaar’s development).
Burleson looks to be a strong streaming option until Nootbaar comes back, and if he continues to hit, he may be able to carve out enough of a role to still hold value in deeper leagues even when St. Louis returns to full health.