When one of the questions in spring training is who is your backup catcher going to be, it means your team is pretty set. That is one of the questions that the Cardinals have this spring. One of the important things about re-signing Yadier Molina is that they don’t have to worry about catcher for the next few years. If Molina had left, the Cardinals would be forced to go into the free agent or trade market to replace him due to the lack of depth. The Cardinals have three options to be Molina’s backup who are coming from three different paths; Koyie Hill, Bryan Anderson and Tony Cruz.
Hill is an eight year veteran backup catcher who has been with the Chicago Cubs, Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers. He isn’t exactly known for his offense (he’s a career .211 hitter), but he’s been around and knows the hitters which is something Cruz, nor Anderson can say. He’s thrown out 28% of attempted base stealers in his career.
Cruz has had a little different path. Cruz was drafted as a third baseman first by the Dodgers and then by the St. Louis Cardinals. Cruz was converted to catcher while in high single-A ball while still playing a little bit of third base. Cruz makes pretty good contact. In over 1600 plate appearances in the minors, he’s only struck out 269 times. He is still learning to play the position, which may hold him back and the Cardinals may be better off giving him more time to develop.
Anderson has been in the minors for seven seasons and will be 25 years old. Anderson is a former fourth round draft pick. He’s spent the past three seasons in triple-a and his offensive numbers have improved each season. He got his first taste of the majors last season, playing in sixteen games. Anderson can’t play another position, unlike Cruz, and is a left-handed bat and more experienced behind the plate, but lacks the major league time that Hill has in his career.
With Mike Matheny now in charge, as a former major league catcher, my guess is that barring injuries, Koyie Hill will be Molina’s backup. Matheny will probably prefer the big-league experience and knowledge that Hill has over the unproven Cruz and Anderson. I think if anything happens to Hill like an injury or even a trade, that Anderson would be next in the pecking order because of his experience behind the dish. Cruz may need a little more time to develop his catching skills, but may be the best hitter of the three.