Yadier Molina is a St. Louis Cardinals legend but he can’t be around forever. With his most recent injury, his possible replacement gets some playing time.
If you haven’t noticed, the St. Louis Cardinals have been playing without their anchor behind the plate. After trying to play through a thumb injury he likely sustained at some point last week, the Cardinals placed Molina on the 10-day injured list on Saturday.
An MRI on Friday revealed that Molina had strained a tendon in his hand and the scary part is that there is currently “no timetable for return” per manager Mike Shildt. As scary as that sounds, Yadi has had a knack for returning way earlier than most mere mortals would from injuries. Also, the team is in the most capable hands they have been in without Molina in years.
Losing Molina does hurt obviously but in the interim, Matt Wieters has shown he is more than capable of handling the staff and the bat as he has a .333 batting average, 3 homers and a .973 OPS in his very limited playing time so far this year. Wieters is quite likely the best backup the Cardinals have had for Molina in the last 10-15 years but the biggest chance in Yadi’s injury is for who was called up to replace Yadi on the roster.
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Andrew Knizner has made his debut. After Carson Kelly, there was still a great catching prospect waiting in the minors and Andrew Knizner has shown that he is worth the praise he has gotten this year as the Cardinals #2 overall prospect by MLB.com.
The 24-year-old hit .286 with five homers and 17 RBI’s and a .805 OPS at AAA Memphis in 2019 and even though he did go 0-3 in his debut on Sunday, Knizner was a great battery partner to Adam Wainwright and his dominant 8-inning performance.
Andrew Knizner may be getting his shot right now. The injury to Yadi is too recent to know exactly how Mike Shildt is going to balance the playing time between Wieters and Knizner, but Wieters has gotten two of the three starts since Knizner was called up.
Knizner is in a very similar position that Carson Kelly was in before he was traded to the Diamondbacks in the Paul Goldschmidt deal. Kelly had nothing left to prove at AAA and just needed playing time; something Yadi isn’t very fond of sharing. Kelly is also 24 years old and has done well when he has gotten that playing time. It’s interesting to me how the Cardinals are playing things with Knizner.
This may be digging in too far into things that don’t matter, but the Cardinals gave Knizner Matt Holliday’s old #7 uniform. Some were surprised that they gave anyone Holliday’s number, but to give it to a rookie catcher who is still blocked by Molina, it may signal that the team has Knizner in their longterm plans more than Carson Kelly whom they gave #19.
The defensive polish that Kelly showed was his strong suit but Knizner’s polish is in his bat even while his defense has caught up a lot.
If the Cardinals view Knizner as the long-term replacement for Yadi, they have to accept that he won’t be able to start daily for at least another year or so and may not be full time until the age of 26. They may just be playing it by ear, but there’s a lot of interesting meanings that could be going on here.
Another thought is that Knizner is only up to get a showcase at the MLB and then to flip him for a starting pitcher in July. Nobody knows anything until we look back.
At the very least, it’s great to get a player like Knizner time in the Majors before he gets too old and rewarding him for all his hard work in the Minors with time up. Nobody knows. This could be the time for Knizner to show what he’s got. Straight into the fire you go.
At the end of the day, Knizner has earned this chance at the Majors and we will see what his playing time looks like. For now, Wieters (a career starter) has looked great being the lead catcher but with the same situation as with Carson Kelly, if Knizner is gonna be here he needs to get playing time semi-regularly. If I were Shildt, I would go for about a 60/40 playing time between Wieters and Knizner but hey, what do I know.