St. Louis Cardinals: Yadier Molina Ranked 6th Among Catchers by MLB Network

Jun 17, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina (4) calls time out during the third inning against the Texas Rangers at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 17, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina (4) calls time out during the third inning against the Texas Rangers at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /

MLB Network issued its top 10 rankings for catchers as Spring Training begun today. St. Louis Cardinals backstop Yadier Molina landed sixth on the 2017 list.

St. Louis Cardinals star catcher Yadier Molina ranked second on MLB Network’s 2013 list and first on the 2012 list, was ranked 7th at the beginning of last season. The St. Louis Cardinals catcher boasts seven career All-Star selections. MLB Network’s 2017 catcher rankings are as follows:

  1. Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
  2. Jonathan Lucroy, Texas Rangers
  3. Yasmani Grandal, Los Angeles Dodgers
  4. Wilson Ramos, Tampa Bay Rays
  5. Russell Martin, Toronto Blue Jays
  6. Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals
  7. Francisco Cervelli, Pittsburgh Pirates
  8. J.T. Realmuto, Miami Marlins
  9. Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals
  10. Welington Castillo, Baltimore Orioles

For years, the St. Louis Cardinals’ cornerstone has been Yadier Molina. He debuted in 2004 as a 21-year old whose strength was not at the plate, but behind the plate. He’s been St. Louis’ Opening Day catcher the last 12 seasons. When he starts behind the plate April 2 vs. the Chicago Cubs, he’ll tie Lou Brock for the most consecutive Opening Days at one position in Cardinals history at 13.

He’ll turn 35 this summer and is coming off of a year in which he played in a career-high 147 games. Last year, hit .307 with a .360 on-base percentage in his best offensive season since 2013, when he finished 3rd in the National League MVP balloting. Molina especially turned up the heat after the All-Star break, recording a .365 batting average to go along with a .398 OBP.

While Yadi’s offensive numbers were a pleasant surprise in 2016, it was the first year since 2007 he did not take home the Gold Glove award for National League catchers. He had received the previous eight honors.

Molina’s caught-stealing percentage was only 21% last season, a career-low, and below the league average for the first time in his career. In 2011, he threw out 29% of potential base stealers, and responded by throwing out over 40% of potential base stealers the following four seasons.

While Yadier Molina may soon be entering the sunset of his exceptional career with the Cardinals, he’ll still play a critical role on the 2017 team. His intangible baseball instincts and ability to guide the pitching staff will once again bring a needed edge to the field.

Eric Fryer will serve as Yadi’s backup to begin the year, while the club’s 7th overall prospect and heir apparent Carson Kelly will likely begin the year in AAA Memphis.

2017 is the last year of Molina’s 5 year, $75 million contract he signed before the start of the 2012 season. His contract contains a mutual option worth $15 in 2018. The Cardinals may consider extending his contract beyond next year.

In previous years, the Cardinals’ front office has been willing to let aging players finish off their careers with other clubs, allowing them to explore free-agency. Matt Holliday is the most recent example of this.

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However, the Cardinals might handle Molina differently. He’s been with St. Louis since he was drafted in 2000, and is already the most decorated and beloved backstop in the team’s illustrious history.

He was there in the 2004 World Series, and would take over the reigns from Mike Matheny full-time the following season. He was there in 2006, guiding rookie closer Adam Wainwright through the final at-bat of the National League Championship Series against the Mets, which ended when he called for Wainwright’s signature curveball.

He was there just eight days later when Wainwright was finishing off the team’s first World Series Championship in 24 years, this time calling for the slider to send brand-new Busch Stadium into euphoria.

Since 2006, the Wainwright-Molina duo has started a Cardinals record 216 games as the pitcher-catcher battery. They’ll add to that record this season.

Yadi was there in 2011 when the Redbirds pulled off a miraculous run in September and all the way through October en route to the team’s 11th World Series triumph.

He was there in 2013 making his fourth World Series appearance. In total, he’s played in 89 postseason games for the Cardinals, by far the most of any current Cardinals player on the roster.

Next: The Five Players Most Likely to be Traded This Season

He’s been there all along, and will be there again in 2017. Here’s to another great season for Yadi, from all of Cardinal Nation.