Today we take a look at the St. Louis Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates infield. Who has the advantage at each position?
Last week fellow Redbird Rants contributor, Ethan Carter, gave us a comparison of the outfield between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates. As Spring Training approaches, I’m going around the horn to see who has the advantage at the infield positions.
First, let’s take a look at the depth chart for each team:
St. Louis Cardinals:
In a way, the infield, for both the St. Louis Cardinals and the Pirates, almost mirror each other entering the 2017 season. Both are returning familiar faces around the infield. Both teams are turning to new first basemen at the start of the year. Also, both teams face some uncertainty at the hot corner.
Surely one of the infield has the advantage somewhere, right?
Catcher: Yadier Molina or Francisco Cervelli
If you happen to have caught my Cubs Vs. Cardinals infield comparison, then you know where this story is going to go. Yadier Molina has been the NL Central’s best catcher for a very long time and that reign won’t end in 2017.
That’s not to say every other catcher in the Central is bad. Just last year, the Brewers had a top five catcher in Jonathan Lucroy. The only problem was that it was the Brewers and Lucroy didn’t have much help. With Lucroy no longer in the picture, teams are looking up at Molina now more than ever.
Molina’s successful 2016 season is a continuation of his growth as a hitter throughout his thirteen year career. Although he does not hit for power, Molina is capable of producing a high average with good ability to hit for extra bases. He is projected to lead all catchers in doubles and hits next season.
Defensively, he continues to be top of his class. With eight Gold Gloves and six Platinum Gloves to his name, Molina’s defensive prowess is unmatched. Although his age is a factor, he is the top catcher now in the Central Division.
Molina’s counterpart, Franciscio Cervelli, is actually a pretty decent player. Since coming over from the Yankees in 2015, Cervelli has quietly batted .282 over the last two years. Injuries played some role in 2016, but he is a steady producer at the plate and is very important to the Pirate’s offense.
Like Molina, Cervelli does not hit for power and sticks to his ability to put the ball in play. One big difference between the two catchers is the ability to hit for extra bases. Last year, Cervelli was only able to hit 14 doubles to Molina’s 38. So while Cervelli puts the ball in play, he is more than likely limited to a single.
Should Cervelli increase his power through the baseball, his doubles and home runs will increase in 2017. His biggest concern though is if he can stay healthy this year. If he is 100% healthy, he is the every day catcher. If he isn’t healthy, he’ll split time with Chris Stewart.