St. Louis Cardinals Best/Worst Case 2016: Yadier Molina
By Landon Clapp
My Take: Yadi eases back, forms league’s best catching duo with Pena
There is a very real possibility that Yadier Molina is going to miss his first Opening Day start in 11 years. It is my opinion that unless he passes all injury-related tests with flying colors and magically looks five years younger, it is probably not in his best interest to be playing at the beginning of April.
He has a talented backup in Brayan Pena that should do more than a serviceable job in filling in during Yadi’s absence. Yadi cannot catch 150 games any more, that’s just the reality here. Pena needs to assimilate himself with the Cardinals pitching staff as quickly as possible, if the team wants to compete for a fourth-consecutive NL Central title.
What better time to get Pena comfortable with Cardinal pitchers than right out of the gate in April? What better time for Yadi to teach Pena his catching philosophy and to work out the kinks than in the first few weeks of the season?
More from St Louis Cardinals News
- Cardinals Rumors: 3 pros and cons of signing Carlos Rodon
- Cardinals: Here is Willson Contreras’ first message for St. Louis fans
- How do the St. Louis Cardinals stack up with Willson Contreras?
- Cardinals: The insane asking price the Athletics had for Sean Murphy
- St. Louis Cardinals: Ask me anything with Josh Jacobs – 12/8
So long as it doesn’t put the Cardinals in a giant hole right out of the gate, it just seems like a win/win to ease Yadi in and start the season with Pena. The goal is to make any transition between the two invisible to the Cardinal pitching staff. In my opinion, this would be the best way.
I see Yadi returning some time in Mid-April, this time as close to 100% as he has been in quite some time. With Pena keeping the Cardinals where they need to be through April and being there to spell him when needed after that, Yadi sheds a lot of the weight that he has had to carry with this Cardinals team in the past.
The result is a very solid offensive year for Yadi, the same elite-level defense that we have grown used to, and for the first time since 2013, a fresh and healthy Yadi come playoff time.
I am going to call for a .290/.350/.430 slash line for Yadi over roughly 400 at-bats in 110 games. With a strong and healthy body, I like Yadi to reach double-digit home runs for the first time since 2013, and to end up somewhere in the ballpark of 60-65 RBI.
Yadi will win another Gold Glove, and although it will come down to the wire, he will be voted in as one of the last guys to make the NL All Star team.
Next: What to expect from Cardinal catchers in 2016
Without saying too much (as Pena will be up soon in the series), I think that the Yadi/Pena duo will combine to post the best stat line of National League catchers in 2016. They might even beat out everybody in baseball.