Once a top prospect, St. Louis Cardinals catcher Andrew Knizner has been a below-average hitter, and with his slow start to spring training, it's time to hit the panic button.
Andrew Knizner had every opportunity to take the reigns as the everyday catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals last season when legend Yadier Molina was on the brink of retirement and could not play every game.
Instead, he and Molina posted one of the worst offensive seasons at the catcher position in the majors. These inconsistencies led to the Cardinals' biggest offseason addition of Willson Contreras.
Knizner's defensive ability has kept him on the major league roster, and his familiarity with the St. Louis pitching staff also helps, especially his new connection with Miles Mikolas.
Knizner is entering his fifth season as a major league baseball player. He had not played in more than 63 games in a season until last year when he played in 96. However, these numbers do not mean much when you have a future Hall of Famer ahead of you on the depth chart.
Still, with Molina's infrequent injuries, Knizner had time to showcase any kind of offensive competency. For his career, he is a .204 hitter at the major league level with 100 career hits.
The Cardinals' optimism in his offensive ability is easy to find when you look into his minor league career. In four seasons in the minor leagues, Knizner posted a .303 average with 37 home runs and 172 RBIs between AA and AAA.
The minor league offense has not translated to the big league level and it forced St. Louis' hand when Molina retired to sign Contreras to a long-term deal. This spring training, Knizner's offense is still lacking.
While Contreras opted out of representing his home country of Venezuela at the World Baseball Classic, Knizner has still had plenty of opportunity to get at-bats this preseason.
He has played in seven games for the Cardinals in the spring, he has just one hit and three strikeouts in 18 plate appearances. In an offseason where prospect Ivan Herrera is waiting in the wings, it is not the time for Knizner to struggle at the plate.
The 28-year-old catcher is still the only choice behind the plate in 2023, and while Contreras has his defensive miscues, Knizner will still have ample opportunity to get playing time behind the plate and could approach 100 games played in 2023.
St. Louis will have to keep a close eye on Knizner early this year because if Herrera's development increases quicker than expected, the Cardinals could have a dynamic offense duo with Herrera and Contreras with Knizner on the outside looking in.