Yadier Molina just ended a 27-game consecutive starts streak behind the plate for the St. Louis Cardinals Monday night, getting a rare night off. The streak was the longest of any catcher over the age of 35.
As spoiled as the St. Louis Cardinals are by having Yadier Molina, the amount they lean on him has me – and everyone else wondering what the Cardinals are going to do when he’s not there? Or when he can’t catch six days a week anymore?
After all, the guy doesn’t just catch the ball and throw it back. He’s a game manager unlike any other in the game. His pitching staff respects him and looks at him as another piece to the coaching staff. Not to mention, he’s a career .283 hitter – and will have racked up more than 2,000 hits by the time he calls it quits.
We get it – he’s great. But what’s the future look like? Enter Carson Kelly and Andrew Knizner. Both guys are 23 and both will be big league catchers at some point, for someone. The Cardinals obviously have a say in which one of those guys is the catcher for “someone.”
Starting with the name Cardinals fans are more familiar with – Carson Kelly. Kelly has shown throughout his time in the minors that he is very capable of managing a pitching staff. His bat is a little behind but hey, so was Molina’s until about his fourth big league season.
The problem is however, when Kelly has seen time in the big leagues, his fielding has not been as advertised – ultimately leading him to not make the team out of Spring Training this season. That, plus his inability to hit at this point, raises some serious questions.
Kelly has shown very good play in the minor leagues – but will it carry over?
Andrew Knizner – the less familiar name of the two, is very impressive. Knizner has spent time this season with AA Springfield and AAA Memphis – hitting above .300 at both levels. He’s also carrying a .992 fielding percentage – equal to Kelly.
Overall, both of these guys seem have similar builds, similar fielding abilities, and are the same age. Oh, and both have to wait in the ranks until Molina retires at the end of 2020. Which I’m sure will happen but if anyone has ever found the fountain of youth, it’s Yadier Molina.
All things considered – the best option in my opinion is to go with Knizner. Unlike Kelly, he seems to be getting better and better. I think he could spend all of next season in Memphis and then split time with Molina in 2020. What better way to learn than that?
It’s important for the St. Louis Cardinals to make a decision on this sooner rather than later, for a couple reasons.
First, it sets a clear path for the organization and for the next guy to take over. After all, he will be following the best catcher in the game over the past 15 years.
Second, either of these would provide a nice trade chip and many organizations would be interested in them. Most organizations don’t have top prospect catchers in their farm systems – let alone two.
Who knows what could happen in the next two years. But the Cardinals are in a pretty good position; as they are heading toward Molina’s last two seasons and have the talent to replace him.