St. Louis Cardinals traded their former prospect, 'heir apparent', catcher/third baseman Carson Kelly in a package deal to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Golden Glover/Silver Slugger All Star 1B Paul Goldschmidt in December 2018.
Now, Cardinals prospect catcher Andrew Knizner has been moved into the role. "Heir apparent" to the Cardinals Captain, catcher Yadier Molina, who still has two years remaining on his current contract. Knizner dismisses the phrase as too easily and often used by the media. A presumption that he doesn't think about. Knizner understands, in my opinion, how determined Molina is and that if allowed, he would play 162 games in a season. Will he replace Molina once retired? At the moment that is not where Knizner's mindset is at.
What Knizner is thinking about is to continue to improve his skill behind the plate. He is learning from Molina the importance of - in a nutshell - 'your body is a temple'. Knizner has taken to heart Molina's physical workout habits - before and after games - all through the off-season. In addition to the mental portion of the game. Strong body for fielding, strong mind for concentration and to 'see all'. To be more 'Yadi-like'.
He's learning to play through nicks and pain when need be. He's learning from what we will all know - a future Hall of Fame contender, Yadier Molina.
Knizner is not focusing on 'heir apparent' as he feels he still has fine-tuning to be made - growing and continuing to fine tune his skill. And right now that is his role with the Memphis Triple-A Redbirds. That is where his concentration lies. With the Cardinals re-signing FA catcher Francisco Pena to a minor league contract this off-season, presumption is that Pena will once again be back-up for Molina in 2019. Leaving Knizner to become even stronger in his appointed position for the Redbirds. Always striving to excel in all areas.
He was moved from first base to catcher while playing ball for North Carolina State University. Which I feel gives him a 'leg-up' on Kelly. It was not until Kelly was in the minor leagues that he was switched from third base to being a catcher. And, Kelly is a strong backstop in his own right. Not only has Knizner developed his skill behind the plate with an alert presence and strong arm which runners think twice about. But, he possesses quite the strength at the plate to go with.
In his three seasons of minor league play with 881 at-bats, he's slugged out 273 hits for 53-2B/2-3B/25 HR/138 RBI, holding a 71-118/BB-SO ratio for a career .310/.373/.460/.833 slashline. As a catcher, offense is phenomenal. On the flipside, he has yet to be tested at the major league level. However, I feel he has a stronger foundation than most coming up. I feel Knizner 'has it between the ears' and knows the challenge that lies ahead - he's presuming nothing only to do his job to best of his ability.
In 2018, MLB Pipeline Prospect Watch, Knizner was ranked #5 for the Cardinals behind RHP Alex Reyes, 3B Norman Gorman, RHP Dakota Hudson and RHP Ryan Helsley.
We may see him in September 2019 to make his debut. Maybe sooner should injury to either Molina or Pena occur. My thought - I'd rather see him later than sooner.
"Heir apparent" is not a title he is concerned about. In my opinion, he's above and beyond the appointed phrase.
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