The St. Louis Cardinals currently lead the National League Central division with a 28-22 record, 0.5 games above the Chicago Cubs.
They swung a trade for third baseman Nolan Arenado during the offseason and it seems to be paying off handsomely.
But if two specific players would increase their current production, the team has the potential to see its win total increase in a hurry.
Here are two Cardinals players who must step up right now.
2. Dylan Carlson
Dylan Carlson was one of the best prospects in the Cardinals system over the last few years.
He had a fantastic season in Double-A in 2019, hitting .281/.364/.518 with 21 homers and 18 steals in 108 games, earning a promotion to Triple-A, where he was even better (.361/.418/.681 with five blasts and two thefts in 18 games).
He made his MLB debut in 2020, struggling to a .200/.252/.364 line with three homers in 35 games.
During the 2021 campaign, the outfielder has shown glimpses of the hitter he was in the minor leagues, with a .271/.359/.392 line in 48 games.
While the average is acceptable and the on-base percentage is nice, the Cardinals need Carlson to regain the power stroke and the stolen base ability that made him a star prospect a couple of years ago.
So far, he has only three homers in the present campaign, and as a result, his slugging percentage is short of .400.
The numbers say his defense hasn’t been particularly good in 2021 (although the eye test suggests otherwise), so more power would help St. Louis and guarantee more at-bats in the future for him.
He is a very talented hitter who has yet to put it all together for the Cardinals.
I honestly believe Dylan Carlson is going to be great and is being slept on hard by non-cardinals fans. It's not common for a 20 year old to mash at AA and AAA and then to come to Spring Training the next year and hit off MLB pitching. AND hes got 5 tool potential. #RoY
— Cardinals Stats And Facts (@SpittinFactsSTL) July 4, 2020
1. Paul Goldschmidt
The veteran slugger has been one of the best first basemen in MLB for a full decade now.
The Cardinals took a chance on him before the 2019 season and traded for his ‘decline’ years.
Now 33, Paul Goldschmidt is one of the Cardinals’ single most important players, because when he is right, he can bring a power and on-base element to the offense that only Arenado can supply alongside him.
— cardinalsgifs (@cardinalsgifs) May 22, 2021
The 2021 season, however, has not been the best for the former Arizona Diamondbacks franchise player.
As of Friday afternoon, Goldschmidt is hitting .255/.313/.406 with six home runs and a couple of stolen bases.
Both the power and the on-base element to his game have been missing this campaign.
In fact, Goldschmidt has barely been an average hitter.
Judging by wRC+, we can determine whether a player is above or below average when it comes to offensive production.
The average is considered 100, and the first baseman has a 103 wRC+.
Goldschmidt is currently working on a four-game hitting streak, with a double, so he appears to be trending up.
However, he has a lot of work to do before we can officially proclaim he is back, as his career wRC+ is an excellent 140.
If the Cardinals can get that player back, look out, because it would mean that they are clear favorites in the NL Central division.NEXT: How Good Will Adam Wainwright Be For The Cardinals In 2021?