Although the most recognizable players on the St. Louis Cardinals are all over the age of 30, the 2024 campaign is likely to be determined by the younger Redbirds. There are two groups of this youth movement, with guys like Masyn Winn looking to find their MLB sea legs and carve out a regular role on the club.

And then there are those who have already been with the Cardinals for a few years but are still seeking an unequivocal breakthrough in the big leagues. Outfielder Lars Nootbaar could be primed to make that leap this year, thanks in part to the work he has been putting in with Nolan Arenado and the eight-time All-Star's brother, Jonah.

“The Arenado brothers are close friends with Nootbaar,” The Athletic's Katie Woo writes. “All three are from Southern California and return to the area when the baseball season ends. It was there, in a warehouse that Nolan remodeled into a hitting facility, that the brothers helped transform Nootbaar’s swing.”

The 26-year-old flashed some impressive pop in 2022 but saw his power numbers dip slightly last year in favor of an increase in contact skills. He batted .261 with 14 home runs and 46 RBIs in an injury-shortened 117-game season. In 2024, Nootbaar is hoping to bring all the hitting mechanics together and fully utilize what the Arenados know to be a truly big bat.

The Cardinals have the talent and depth to instantly bounce back from a miserable 2023 season and reclaim the National League Central throne, but Lars Nootbaar feels like the X-factor on this team. His offseason development might be the catalyst for a captivating redemption story in the “Gateway to the West.”