With Yadier Molina aging, the Cardinals will need to begin resting him on a more regular basis, thus saving his legs and hopefully prolonging his magnificent career. With that being said, could the recent success of Michael McKenry give him a chance to see time as a back-up in St. Louis?
If you follow the Cardinals as diligently as we do, you’ll probably be familiar with Carson Kelly, the current catcher for the AA Springfield Cardinals. Set to play in the prestigious “Futures Game” during the 2016 All-Star Break, Kelly is thought to be the logical heir to the throne of catching legend Yadier Molina.
While it is relatively difficult to make an argument against Kelly at this point, it will still be a couple years (at least) before he is ready to touch foot in Busch Stadium. For this reason, it becomes interesting to see how the Cardinals will handle the back-up role, a position that will become increasingly important as Molina’s legs begin to tire.
Currently, Bravan Pena fills this role, ready to relieve Molina of his catching duties every so often.
If you look a little closer into the organization, however, one could possibly find an alternative. Enter Michael McKenry, a 31 year-old journeyman from Knoxville, Tennessee. After a stint with The Round Rock Express, a Texas Rangers AAA affiliate, McKenry elected to sign with the Cardinals. Since May 27th, McKenry has proved to be a diamond in the rough in Memphis.
Specifically, McKenry has hit .333 since joining Memphis on May 27th. In his first 75 at-bats, McKenry has also driven in 17 runs, hitting 4 home runs, 3 triples, and 4 doubles. Troubled by injuries and consistency throughout a long career in and out of the majors, McKenry looks to be surging after a change of scenery.
Recent production aside, McKenry has other accolades and attributes that position him nicely to become the back-up to Yadier Molina. First of all, McKenry has proven mightily he can produce at the big league level. For example, in 2014, McKenry hit .315 in 168 at-bats for the Colorado Rockies. If not for a serious meniscus tear in his right knee, McKenry might still be in Colorado.
Considering such a serious injury, the Cardinals might have picked up McKenry at the perfect time. As of now, it seems that he may just be regaining the confidence and consistency that led to outstanding production with the Rockies. Moving forward, it will be difficult to deny McKenry an opportunity to substitute for Molina during the second half of the season. With health, production, and 2 separate periods of Major League contribution, McKenry could be the perfect compliment to Molina.
Epitomizing the word “journeyman,” it would be gratifying for McKenry and Cardinals fans everywhere if he could produce in St. Louis in the near future. If nothing else, the Cardinals may be able to use McKenry as trade bait at the deadline.