As we get closer to the beginning of the 2012 season, it is important to keep in mind that players don’t last forever. As this offseason has shown us, even the players who claim they want to retire as Cardinals are not immune to the temptation that huge contracts offer. The depth of the farm system becomes very important as players either retire or leave for supposed greener pastures. Over the next few weeks I am going to highlight the names to know at each position. Today, I am going to focus on a position that could become very important in the next few years. As Yadier Molina’s contract comes to an end, the depth at the catcher position may be necessary to take advantage of. Is the Cardinals next starting catcher available in-house?
Bryan Anderson/Tony Cruz – It appears one of these two will start the 2012 season as the Cardinals backup catcher while the other will be sent down to start at AAA. Who wins the job depends on two factors: spring training performance and new manager Mike Matheny’s preference. If Tony LaRussa were returning, all signs would point towards Tony Cruz winning the job. Tony seemed to prefer a defensive-minded backup catcher. If Matheny values Anderson’s bat, he could win the job, though. I feel Cruz will win the job and Anderson will be sent down again. His offensive abilities have been consistent, but it’s apparent that the Cardinals front office does not view him as a starting option on the major league team.
Steven Hill – Steven Hill is currently the best offensive option at the position. His power numbers have improved at each level and he has maintained a high OPS. His AAA numbers have been solid, but it has been a very small sample size. With Anderson/Cruz and now Koyie Hill in the system, it will be hard for Hill to get playing time behind the plate at AAA, but he plays a bit at first base so if he starts the season in Memphis he could still see a good share of at bats.
Audry Perez – Perez is above average offensively as a catcher and is solid defensively. Like Yadier Molina, he is hard to strike out. He has actually lowered his K rate with each promotion. He needs to focus on patience at the plate, though, as his walk rate is very low and has gotten worse with each promotion. He will more than likely start the year in Springfield, so the Cardinals will have to be creative to get playing time for Perez and Hill if Hill is not promoted.
Robert Stock – Stock was drafted with the Cardinals second pick in 2009. He performed well in limited time that season, but has not done well since. The batting average and power that he was poised to show have not been present so far. He is still noteworthy based solely on upside. He was also a solid relief pitcher before being drafted, so many feel he could be converted much like Jason Motte.
Cody Stanley – Cody is not a high upside option, but has no obvious weaknesses. He has shown a good bat so far, solid defense, and has a lot of athletic ability. In 100 games at Quad Cities, he hit 11 home runs, so there is potential for power to develop. He is still many years away, but is a name to keep an eye on as he ascends through the system.
The Cardinals may have their next catcher in house, but I definitely would not risk not bringing back Yadier Molina if his contract demands aren’t exorbitant. The Cardinals have a handful of players with strengths, but no well-rounded prospects on the immediate horizon.
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