Following a disappointing 71-91 season, the St. Louis Cardinals look to reverse their fortunes in 2024. The club rehauled its starting rotation, adding Lance Lynn, Kyle Gibson, and Sonny Gray in free agency to highlight a busy offseason.

The results have been mixed so far. St. Louis is 7-9 thus far but find themselves in last place in the National League Central. Though it is still early in the year, here are three shocking surprises for the Cardinals to begin the 2024 season.

Ivan Herrera splitting time behind the dish with Willson Contreras

After Yadier Molina's retirement in 2022, the Cardinals signed three-time All-Star Willson Contreras as his replacement. Contreras had a strong debut campaign in St. Louis, hitting 20 homers and posting an OPS of .826 across 125 games. The former Chicago Cubs backstop has played just as well but has not been the primary catcher for STL this year. That role is currently held by rookie Ivan Herrera, who has nine starts behind the dish to Contreras' seven appearances.

Herrera played a combined 24 games over the last two seasons but has already played 10 times in the Cardinals' first 16 games. The 24-year-old is tied for the team lead with three home runs, a .856 OPS, and a low strikeout rate. Curiously, Contreras has more appearances as a designated hitter than Herrera (four to one) despite the veteran being the better defender. Herrera has shown thus far that his bat deserves a spot in the Cardinals lineup, but the even split in catching appearances will be a surprising trend to monitor as the season goes on.

Paul Goldschmidt's lack of power

After winning National League MVP in 2022, Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt had an OPS of .810 in 2023 — above average but also the worst of his long career. This year, any semblance of power at the plate has eluded Goldschmidt so far. The seven-time All-Star has just one extra-base hit in St. Louis' first 16 games (a homer on opening day), leading to a mediocre OPS of .538. The 36-year-old is also on pace to strike out nearly 200 times this season.

Paul Goldschmidt's lack of production from the second spot in the batter order is a major reason the Cardinals are averaging only 3.81 runs per game in 2024 — thus canceling out the club's above-average pitching. If the veteran first baseman continues to struggle, St. Louis Oli Marmol will be forced to move Goldschmidt down the order or out of the lineup altogether.

Lance Lynn's strong start

Once a Cy Young contender, Lance Lynn struggled mightily in 2023. The right-hander had a combined 5.73 ERA for the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers — though that number was two points better once Chicago dealt him to LA. Still, few expected Lynn to return to ace form in 2024. That is exactly what the 37-year-old has done.

Through three starts this season, Lynn has a 2.63 ERA with a career-best 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings. Lynn showed spurts of this potential last season — notably a three-start stretch with one run allowed across 18 innings early in his time with the Dodgers. But the veteran had an ERA of 6.23 from that point onward for LA.

The one concern so far for Lynn is his inability to pitch deep into games. Lynn has not produced a start longer than five innings for St. Louis. Can Lynn maintain this early success as the season progresses?