St. Louis Cardinals: Yadi creates an issue for catchers of the future

jgrose
ST. LOUIS, MO - AUGUST 10: Yadier Molina
ST. LOUIS, MO - AUGUST 10: Yadier Molina /
facebooktwitterreddit

St. Louis Cardinals catcher, Yadier Molina, recently announced he would play out the remaining three years of his contract. This causes some issues for prospects Carson Kelly and Andrew Knizner.

St. Louis Cardinals catcher, leader, and probable Hall of Famer announced recently he plans to play out the last three years of his contract. Most people love Yadier Molina and probably loved hearing he will be around for three more seasons.

Yadi is an icon, playing for the team for the past 14 seasons. He is arguably one of the best defensive catchers ever and is coming off a season in which he hit 18 home runs and had 82 RBI. He once again looked like the Yadi of old behind the plate, upping his caught stealing percentage by 15 points.

In 2016, he threw out 21% of base stealers. Many fans and the announcers blamed this on pitchers being slow to the plate. This probably had a little to do with the low number. But, as a fan who has watched him for the past 14 years, I began seeing many more inaccurate throws than what I was used to. I thought it was the beginning of the end for Molina.

More from Redbird Rants

He bounced back in 2017 though, throwing out 36% of runners. This ranked fourth best in baseball last season. He proved me wrong, and I am glad he did.

However, he is 35-years-old and regularly catches the most innings of any catcher each season. There is a lot of wear and tear on that body.

Many catchers his age and with his workload begin to transition to that backup role or start eyeing retirement. But, he is going to catch for the next three seasons, and I don’t think he has any interest in becoming a backup.

This essentially blocks Carson Kelly and Andrew Knizner, two very promising catching prospects.

Cardinals fans should already be familiar with Carson Kelly, who was just listed as the second best catching prospect in all of baseball. He has made brief appearances on the big league club the past two seasons. He grades out as an above average defender and continues to improve on the offensive side. His triple slash last year in Memphis was .283/.375/.459 for a .834 OPS. While he has not hit much in the majors, it is a small sample size and his at-bats have been few and far between sitting behind Yadi.

He has nothing left to prove in the minors. Yadi catches 130-140 games almost every year. I don’t think he has any interest in reducing his playing time. So, that leaves Kelly with about 30 games next year and maybe the two years after that. He’s missing out on a lot of at-bats, maybe getting 150 plate appearances next season. He needs the usual 500-600 to continue to improve his offensive game. This can definitely stunt his development.

Related Story: Molina transcends baseball

The St. Louis Cardinals also have another good catcher in the minors named Andrew Knizner. He was drafted in 2016 in the seventh round out of North Carolina State. In 148 career minor league games so far, he has a triple slash of .308/.376/.478 for a .854 OPS. He made it to Springfield last year, where he had a .833 OPS in 51 games.

Right now, it is undecided where he will begin the 2018 season – Springfield or Memphis. Regardless of where he starts the year, he will quickly be the everyday catcher in Memphis if he continues to produce. Although a very promising player, he is seemingly blocked by two catchers for the next three seasons.

So, what do they Cardinals do with the overload of catching talent?

This is a good problem to have, and it is a similar problem the St. Louis Cardinals have with their pitching depth. In my opinion, they have three options: include one of the catching prospects in a trade, start limiting Yadi’s games so Kelly can play more, or just deal with it until Yadi retires.

I think it will be a mix of option two and three. I think Yadi catches less games this season and beyond – not a drastic decrease, but maybe 120-125 games instead of 135-140. And, I think Knizner is just simply blocked until Yadi retires, although I wouldn’t be surprised to see him included in a future trade package, especially if he has another good year in Memphis this season. Furthermore, he does have some experience as a first baseman, so he could possibly transition into that role.

Next: Tommy Pham as MVP?

Again, having too much talent on a team is not a bad thing. But, it does present some issues for Mike Matheny and John Mozeliak to figure out. What do you guys think they should do? Let me know and thanks for reading.

facebooktwitterreddit