Although he is in the early stages of his Cardinals development, Andrew Knizner is thriving in single A Peoria. Especially with Yadi on his way out, this could become an interesting storyline.
As it currently stands, AAA Memphis attracts the most attention of any level in the Cardinals farm system. Naturally, this makes sense. The players are (obviously) fully developed, closest to realizing their MLB dreams. Furthermore, AAA currently holds several hot prospects for the organization. Namely, Memphis is home Carson Kelly, Harrison Bader, and Luke Voit, to name a few.
While it is completely justifiable for AAA to attract the most attention, the other levels hold important prospects, too. Today, I suggest taking a closer look all the way down in single A Peoria, the home to one of the Cardinals most promising young players.
Meet Andrew Knizner
If you have never heard this name, do not worry – he hasn’t even been in the organization for a full year. A seventh round pick out of North Carolina State, Knizner heils from Virginia and plays catcher. Knizner had a solid career in college for the Wolf Pack, hitting .287 with 6 home runs during his junior season. Although he was a solid college player, it was not necessarily a sure thing for him to catch on quickly in the minors.
Despite being a seventh round pick, Knizner has played like a first rounder up until this point in his career. Right out of the gate in 2016, he thrived in the Appalachian league, slashing .319/.423/.492. Along with that line, Knizner drove in 42 runs, hit 6 home runs, and only struck out 21 times in 185 at-bats.
Coming into 2017, Knizner has picked up right where he left off, despite the promotion to single A. Specifically, Knizner is hitting right at the .300 mark, with 22 runs batted in, 8 doubles, and 6 home runs. On the defensive side of the ball, he has committed zero errors behind the plate, gunning down 7 of 12 runners on attempted steals. On top of all this, Knizner is 6’1″, 200 pounds- a solid, durable frame for a catcher at this level.
VIDEO: Peoria Chiefs DH Andrew Knizner's walk-off 3-run homer in the 15th inning for a 4-1 win over Beloit Snappe… https://t.co/al9Ok81QF0
— Dave Eminian (@icetimecleve) May 19, 2017
What To Expect
All in all, it seems like Knizner is almost too good to be true thus far in his career. To this sentiment I have two responses, one negative, and one positive. I shall begin with the negative, in hopes of ending the article on a more positive note.
It is obvious that Knizner has played well, both offensively and defensively. He has hit for average, power, and played a near flawless role behind the plate. At the end of the day, he has played well, a near indisputable fact. With that being said, however, Knizner still has much to prove as a professional ball player.
Most players in rookie ball are very raw, learning the ins and outs of a higher level. As such, polished players such as Knizner can take advantage of such inexperience, getting mainly fastballs and throwing out runners with sub-par jumps. Long story short, Knizner will face better competition moving forward. At that juncture, it will be easier to truly evaluate his talent.
Now, onto a more positive, general note. Knizner proves the rationale behind drafting college players. After playing three years of high-quality, advanced baseball, these draftees have a leg-up over high-school or international prospects. While their ceilings may not be as high (at least on average), these players have an easier time playing in the minor leagues, accustomed to solid pitching and high-level approaches. In the more mental aspects of the game, these players truly thrive, at least early on.
In summary, Knizner has been an awesome so far. Moving forward, though, he will have to prove himself against more advanced competition. Should he pass those tests, as well, the Cardinals should begin to get truly excited.
If he really plays well in AA, perhaps he could begin to challenge Carson Kelly as the heir to Molina. An outrageous claim, seemingly, it becomes a whole lot more realistic when you factor in Yadi’s extension, one that lasts 3 full years. Considering Kelly may just be sitting behind Molina for an extended period of time, perhaps he could become trade bait if Knizner continues to thrive. While these comments are purely speculative, the point is simple. If Knizner continues to play at this level, people will take notice, one way or another.
Photo Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports