St. Louis Cardinals: Carson Kelly returns from minor league ‘Exile’

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 22: Carson Kelly #30 of the St. Louis Cardinals celebrates with Juan Nicasio #12 and Luke Voit #40 after defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on September 22, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 22: Carson Kelly #30 of the St. Louis Cardinals celebrates with Juan Nicasio #12 and Luke Voit #40 after defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on September 22, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /
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With the injury to Yadier Molina on Saturday, Carson Kelly has returned from his exile in Memphis and assumed the primary catching duties for the St. Louis Cardinals.  Patience will be key for the Cardinals.

Carson Kelly is back with the St. Louis Cardinals after being exiled (or optioned) to AAA Memphis during spring training. With the injury to Yadier Molina, Kelly will finally get a chance to be the Cardinals everyday catcher for the next month or more.

Kelly had been assigned to AAA Memphis after a less than impressive spring training. With Molina starting a new three-year contract, it looked to many that Kelly’s future with the St. Louis Cardinals was in doubt. Francisco Pena had won the back up duties while in spring training, and prospect Andrew Knizner impressed some during the spring.

Now, that has all changed with Molina’s injury.  Although Pena Is expected to get more playing time, Kelly will get most of the starts.

While in Memphis this year, Kelly had a slash line of .234/.337/.364 in 21 games.  In 2017, he had a line of .283/.375/.459 in 68 games at Memphis.  In 46 major league games over 3 seasons, he has a slash line of .165/.237/.212,

However, it’s Carson Kelly’s defense that will be key during Molina’s absence.  Kelly’s defensive stats have been respectable, even if not by Molina standards.  His defensive WAR in 2017 was .2 in 34 games, while Molina’s was 1,1 in 134 games.

In an interview with Joe Trezza of MLB.com, Cardinal Manager Mike Matheny says Kelly will face “multiple challenges.”  Many are related to any young catcher stepping into a situation where he must learn the league in detail “on the go.”  But more specific to Kelly is that he will be replacing one of the best “baseball IQ’s” that Matheny has ever seen.

Nevertheless, this is Carson Kelly’s chance to prove to the Cardinals, himself, and possibly other major league teams that he can be an everyday catcher.

A successful stint by Kelly as the Cardinals primary catcher over the next month or more, will allow Vice President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak to:

  • shop Kelly for a needed trade piece either later in the season or during the off-season

or

  • establish Carson Kelly as Yadier Molina’s ‘heir apparent’.

In an earlier piece for Redbird Rants, I discussed the dilemma  the Cardinals faced with Carson Kelly.  Your can read it here.

Related Story: Kelly dilemma

What the St. Louis Cardinals need to do over the next month is to show patience with Carson Kelly as he learns “on the fly” about being an everyday MLB catcher.  The temptation will be to sit him if doesn’t hit,  However, the Cardinals need to remember neither did Yadier Molina early in his career.

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Keep in mind, Kelly has never been an offensive machine, even in the minor leagues.  As stated, in 2017 his offense was respectable with 10 HR and 41 RBI’s while at Memphis.  Nevertheless, it’s always been his defense that has impressed the Cardinals.

To take the pressure off Kelly, if would be helpful if Matt Carpenter and Dexter Fowler picked up their offensive production.  Without the pressure of having to contribute significantly to the Cardinal’s offense, Kelly could focus more on his defense.

Remember, Yadier Molina had Albert Pujols, Jim EdmondsScott Rolen and others as teammates. Then manager Tony LaRussa made it clear to media and fans that the team wasn’t concerned about his offense.  Without that pressure, Molina became one of baseball’s top catchers and his offense eventually came on its own.

Carson Kelly has returned from ‘exile.’  It’s an opportunity for him and the St. Louis Cardinals.

Next: Wong's improvements

What’s your opinion on Kelly’s return.  Let us know. Thanks for reading.

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