Cardinals very Interested in Luis Robert

luis-robertmoiran

Well the Cardinals are at it again when it comes to international players. They splurged on signing international free agents this year by the Cardinals already has secured two top Cuban players who immediately moved into the organization’s list of top prospects, right-handed pitcher Johan Oviedo and outfielder Jonatan Machado. The next Cuban player the Cardinals are looking at is outfielder Luis Robert. He is waiting to be cleared by Major League Baseball to make the 19-year-old eligible to sign with a team, and there are multiple reasons why that team could be the Cardinals.

The Cardinals have a history with Robert, as do several other teams, dating back for at least four years through his appearances in international tournaments and world championships for different age groups. Unlike some of those other teams, however, the Cardinals could be in a position to sign Robert if he gets the clearance to sign prior to June 15, the end of the current signing period.

So why do the Cardinals Scouts like his so much? Robert starred for Cuba’s 16-and-under league as a 14-year-old and began playing in the 18-and-under league at 15, hitting .325 and leading the league with 21 steals his first year. He sported a .383 batting average in the league at age 16 and hit four home runs in the COPABE 18U Pan American Championship in 2014. He later was named to the all-tournament team in the 18-and-under World Cup in Japan in 2015.

Playing for Ciego de Avila in Cuba’s Serie Nacional, the island’s top league, Robert hit .393 with 12 home runs and 11 stolen bases last season. He was also part of the Cuban team that played against the Canadian-American League last summer. The 19-game tour included stops in Little Falls, N.J., and Pomona, N.Y.

“[Japan’s] Shohei Ohtani is the best international player out there and he’s a different animal because he would be the ace of a staff and he can hit,” one National League international scouting director said. “But Robert is up there. He’s a five-tool guy that can be in the big leagues soon. He has to be No. 2 behind Ohtani. He’s that good.”

Source: Jesse Sanchez\MLB

 

 

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St. Louis Cardinals Spring Training Wars

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Here is a very comprehensive  write up by Connor Byrne in MLB Trade Rumors. Its a great read. I love seeing the competition, it always brings out the best in them.

Before they attempt to bounce back from their first non-playoff season since 2010, the Cardinals have a few positions they’ll need to figure out leading up to April. Let’s take a look in the latest edition of MLBTR’s Camp Battles series

Third Base

Jhonny Peralta
Age: 34
Bats: R
Contract Status: One year, $10MM
Options Remaining: Can’t be optioned without consent

Jedd Gyorko
Age: 28
Bats: R
Contract Status: Three years, $28MM (club option worth $13MM – or $1MM buyout – for 2020)
Options Remaining: 2

Judging by their disparate 2016 outputs, this shouldn’t be much of a competition. Peralta slashed .260/.307/.408 in 313 plate appearances, which paled in comparison to Gyorko’s .243/.306/.495 line buoyed by a team-high 30 home runs across 438 PAs. However, the Cardinals continue to value the normally steady Peralta, who dealt with a thumb injury last season and looks like the favorite to open the year at the hot corner for the Redbirds. If a healthy Peralta grabs the job, Gyorko would serve as a fallback option all over the infield, having accrued double-digit appearances at first, second, short and third last year.

Prediction: Peralta does indeed win the battle, leaving Gyorko to begin the season in a utility role.

Starting Rotation (one spot)

Michael Wacha
Age: 25
Throws: R
Contract Status: Pre-arbitration; cannot become a free agent until at least the 2020-21 offseason
Options Remaining: 2

Trevor Rosenthal
Age: 26
Throws: R
Contract Status: Pre-arbitration; cannot become a free agent until at least the 2019-20 offseason
Options Remaining: 2

Luke Weaver
Age: 23
Throws: R
Contract Status: Pre-arbitration; cannot become a free agent until at least the 2022-23 offseason
Options Remaining: 3

Star prospect Alex Reyes might have been the front-runner for this role before tearing his ulnar collateral ligament, which could be a yearslong blow to the Cardinals organization if he’s unable to regain form after Tommy John surgery. While the Cardinals hope for a smooth recovery for Reyes, they’ll choose among three intriguing candidates to fill the No. 5 spot in their rotation this year.

Wacha is easily the most experienced starter of the trio, having totaled 82 appearances from the rotation since debuting in 2013. Wacha looked like a front-end starter in the making in his first three years, during which he combined for a 3.21 ERA (3.48 FIP), 7.95 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and 44.3 percent ground-ball rate over 353 innings. Unfortunately, shoulder injuries have undermined Wacha lately, especially during a 138-inning 2016 in which he spent some time in the bullpen. Wacha posted a bloated ERA (5.09) and a career-low swinging-strike percentage (8.1, down from a lifetime 9.5), though that did come with a 3.91 FIP and normal strikeout (7.43 K/9), walk (2.93 BB/9) and grounder rates (45 percent). He also maintained his typical velocity.

Like Wacha, Rosenthal went from an eminently valuable contributor during his first few big league seasons to a player who endured a shoulder injury-plagued year to forget in 2016. While Rosenthal has worked exclusively out of the bullpen to this point, he was once a well-regarded starting prospect. The 26-year-old became a top-level setup man/closer from 2013-15, but Rosenthal surrendered the ninth-inning job to Seung-hwan Oh during the summer as he lost his control (his career 3.99 BB/9 climbed to 6.47), saw his home run-to-fly ball ratio more than double (from 6.1 percent to 12.5 percent) and posted a sky-high BABIP (.425, up from .338). However, after returning from a multiple-month absence in mid-September, the hard-throwing Rosenthal closed the season on a high note. In his final five appearances (seven innings), he yielded just one earned run and two walks while striking out eight. Regardless of whether Rosenthal starts or relieves this year, the Cardinals will obviously hope his late-2016 surge proves to be a sign of things to come.

Weaver, meanwhile, has been great in the minors since 2015, which helped lead to a nine-appearance, eight-start audition in the bigs last year. Despite notching 11.15 strikeouts per nine against 2.97 walks, Weaver had home run issues en route to a 5.70 ERA in 36 1/3 innings. All told, Weaver gave up seven long balls and induced grounders at a meager 30.7 percent clip. But Weaver’s troubles last season haven’t turned off MLB.com or Baseball America, two outlets that rank him as a top 70 prospect. FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen wrote in January that Weaver “projects as a solid, league-average starter.”

Prediction: Wacha joins Carlos Martinez, Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn and Mike Leake in the St. Louis rotation. Rosenthal stays in the the bullpen. Weaver heads back to Triple-A Memphis.

Bullpen (one spot)

Tyler Lyons
Age: 29
Throws: L
Contract Status: Pre-arbitration; cannot become a free agent until the 2020-21 offseason
Options Remaining: Out of options

Miguel Socolovich
Age: 30
Throws: R
Contract Status: Pre-arbitration; cannot become a free agent until the 2022-23 offseason
Options Remaining: Out of options

John Gant
Age: 24
Throws: R
Contract Status: Pre-arbitration; cannot become a free agent until the 2022-23 offseason
Options Remaining: 2

Sam Tuivailala
Age: 24
Throws: R
Contract Status: Pre-arbitration; cannot become a free agent until the 2022-23 offseason
Options Remaining: 1

Jordan Schafer
Age: 30
Throws: L
Contract Status: Minor league contract (terms unreported)
Options Remaining: Can’t be optioned without consent

Considering he’s on the mend from a right knee injury suffered last summer, Lyons technically isn’t battling for a role right now. He could be ready in time for Opening Day, though, according to Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Lyons came up as a starter, but he worked solely from the bullpen last season and recorded a 3.38 ERA, 8.63 K/9 and 2.63 BB/9 in 40 innings. He was especially tough on left-handed hitters, who batted a paltry .152/.214/.250 against him.

Socolovich, like Lyons, is out of options on the heels of a productive 2016. His 2.00 ERA and 53.5 percent grounder rate came over a mere 18 innings, though it was the latest encouraging performance from a reliever who has held his own through 64 career frames (2.95 ERA, 3.75 FIP, 7.73 K/9, 3.38 BB/9).

Gant spent the previous two seasons with the Braves, who sent him to the Cardinals in the teams’ Jaime Garcia trade in December. The former Mets farmhand debuted in the majors last year in Atlanta, where he made 20 appearances and seven starts. Along the way, he registered fairly even numbers as a starter compared to a reliever (4.80 ERA, 8.7 K/9, 4.2 BB/9 in 30 innings from the rotation; 4.95 ERA, 9.0 K/9, 3.15 BB/9 in 20 frames out of the bullpen).

The bat-missing Tuivailala brings a fastball which averages 96 mph to the table, but he has had difficulty controlling it. Tuivailala, whose first action with the Cards came in 2014, has handed out 16 free passes in 24 2/3 major league innings and recorded a 4.6 BB/9 in 93 Triple-A frames. He seems like a strong bet to get further seasoning in Memphis to begin 2017.

Schafer, too, could have trouble cracking the 25-man. The longtime outfielder and non-roster invitee’s versatility intrigues the Cardinals, however, and his best chance to make their roster is if he shows the ability to work as a competent hybrid player.

Prediction: Either of the two out-of-options relievers will land the last spot in the Cardinals’ bullpen. If it’s a healthy Lyons, he’ll take it. Otherwise it’ll go to Solovich. Regardless, the Cardinals are loaded in the bullpen, where they figure to prominently feature Oh, Rosenthal, Kevin Siegrist, Brett Cecil, Jonathan Broxton and Matthew Bowman. They also have depth with some of the names above, not to mention on-the-mend pitchers in Zach Duke and Marco Gonzales.

Fourth Outfielder

Tommy Pham
Age: 29
Bats: R
Contract Status: Pre-arbitration; cannot become a free agent until the 2021-22 offseason
Options Remaining: 1

Jose Martinez
Age: 28
Bats: R
Contract Status: Pre-arbitration; cannot become a free agent until the 2022-23 offseason
Options Remaining: 2

Todd Cunningham
Age: 27
Bats: S
Contract Status: Pre-arbitration; cannot become a free agent until the 2022-23 offseason
Options Remaining: Out of options

Chad Huffman
Age: 31
Bats: R
Contract Status: Pre-arbitration; annot become a free agent until the 2022-23 offseason
Options Remaining: Out of options

The odds-on favorite to end up as the Cardinals’ top outfielder behind Dexter Fowler, Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk is likely Pham, who has seen action at all three positions in the grass and slashed a respectable .245/.333/.455 with 14 homers in 358 PAs since debuting in 2014. But now-Diamondback Jeremy Hazelbaker improbably turned a strong spring into a spot with the Cards a year ago, and Martinez, Cunningham and Huffman are surely hoping to follow in his footsteps.

Martinez is the only one of the three who has played with the Cardinals, having picked up 18 PAs with them in 2016, and owns a .324/.392/.483 slash in 885 Triple-A PAs. The switch-hitting Cunningham hasn’t been anywhere near that effective as a Triple-A hitter (.274/.349/.368 in 1,810 PAs), and has been in over his head in 130 plate trips with the Angels and Braves (.207/.256/.264), but he’s a stolen base threat who has accounted for eight Defensive Runs Saved and a 19.7 UZR/150 in a small defensive sample size in the bigs.

Then there’s the eldest of the bunch, Huffman, whose only 21 major league PAs came back in 2010 with the Yankees. Like Martinez, Huffman offers a quality track record of Triple-A production (.272/.364/.455 in 2,604 PAs). Of course, the fact that he’s over 30 and has barely garnered any major league action doesn’t bode well for his chances of bursting on the scene this season or any other year.

Prediction: Pham will defeat a relatively unimpressive group of combatants to remain St. Louis’ fourth outfielder to begin 2017. But it seems he’ll soon have the newly signed Jose Adolis Garcia breathing down his neck. Garcia, whom general manager John Mozeliak views as a five-tool talent, could be major league ready by the summer.

 

Cardinals sign Jose Adolis Garcia

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The St. Louis Cardinals announced today that they have signed Cuban free-agent outfielder Jose Adolis Garcia to a minor league contract that includes an invitation to the team’s Major League Spring Training camp.   Garcia, who turns 24 on March 2, was the MVP of Serie Nacional (Cuba’s top professional league) in 2016 and was declared a free-agent by Major League Baseball last December.

“As we continue to look for ways to add talent to the Cardinals organization, we are grateful for the efforts of Moises Rodriguez (Director, International Operations) and Matt Slater (Director, Player Personnel) in helping us to do so,” stated Cardinals’ Senior Vice President/General Manager John Mozeliak.

The younger brother of Atlanta Braves third baseman Adonis Garcia, Adolis played for Tigres de Ciego de Avila, leading them to back-to-back Serie National championships in 2015 and 2016 and another title in 2012.

The right-handed hitting Garcia batted .315 with a .395 on-base pct. and .517 slugging mark last season during his MVP campaign and hit .322 in 2015.

Garcia, a native of Ciego de Avila, played for Team Cuba during the July, 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto and belted three home runs, including a walk-off shot to defeat Puerto Rico in the Bronze Medal Game.   He also played for Cuba against the Team USA National Collegiate team during the June, 2015 Friendship Series in North Carolina.

Garcia played briefly for the Yomiuri Giants of the Japanese Nippon Professional Baseball League last season. He will be assigned uniform no. 75 for Spring Training.

Scouting Report

Jose Adolis Garcia had ranked on Baseball America’s Top Cuban players at #20. He was one of the most tooled-up players in Cuba, with 60 speed on the 20-80 scouting scale and a plus-plus arm. While he played mostly right field for his Ciego de Avila team in Cuba’s top league, Serie Nacional, he has played center field during international tournaments and looked comfortable there, with the tools and athleticism that should allow him to play center field in pro ball.

At 6-foot-1, 175 pounds, Garcia has quick bat speed from the right side of the plate and performed well this past season (2015-16) in Cuba, batting .315/.395/.517 in 380 plate appearances with 14 home runs, 34 walks and 59 strikeouts to go with 11 stolen bases in 17 attempts. While Garcia’s numbers on the surface were among the best in Serie Nacional last season, his long swing, free-swinging approach and struggles to recognize offspeed pitches are significant concerns about his ability to perform against better pitching.

Sources: St. Louis Cardinals\Baseball America

Is This the End of Buehrle’s Career

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As a Cardinals fan I am also a fan of St.Louis home grown players like Mark Buehrle’s career. Last time we saw him he was with the Miami Marlins and then he decided to take a break from baseball. As a blogger I enjoyed the on and off again rumors about Mark coming back home to St. Louis to end his career. There might be some room for him but then again this might be his time to fade into the sun.

An article with MLBTraderumors written by Jeff Todd gives us a glimpse on whats going on with him now….

The White Sox are set to retire Mark Buehrle’s #56 jersey this summer, the team announced. As Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago notes on Twitter, that would appear to suggest the the lefty himself is also hanging up his spikes for good — though there’s been no official word to that effect as of yet.

Last we heard, around this time last spring, Buehrle was still pondering his future. But he decided against pitching in 2016, and we’ve heard no indication since that he was planning a return. Today’s news seemingly confirms that the famously fast-working and incredibly durable southpaw is finished after 16 highly productive seasons in the majors.

Though he ended his career elsewhere, Buehrle spent his first dozen seasons in Chicago. He was a model of consistency there, providing 2,476 2/3 innings of 3.83 ERA ball while averaging 5.1 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9. Despite being taken only in the 38th round of the 1998 draft, Buehrle cracked the majors in 2000, his age-21 season, after just a season and a half in the minors.

Arguably his best season came in 2005 — the club’s World Championship campaign — when he came in fifth in the American League Cy Young voting upon compiling a 3.12 ERA over 236 2/3 frames. That represented the second-straight season in which he led the league in innings and the fourth in a row in which he retired the side at least 230 times. Buehrle had many fine moments in Chicago, among them a no-hitter in 2007 and one of just 23 perfect games ever pitched (on July 23, 2009, against the Rays).

Buehrle departed the White Sox after the 2011 season, joining the Marlins along with a crop of other free agents. After one solid year in Miami, he was dealt to the Blue Jays as part of the blockbuster trade that also shipped veterans Josh Johnson and Jose Reyes (among others) to Toronto. Buehrle was productive til the end, providing the Jays with 604 1/3 innings of 3.78 ERA ball in his final three campaigns.

Even in his age-36 season, which appears now to be his last, Buehrle managed 198 2/3 innings and led qualifying AL pitchers with a 1.5 BB/9 walk rate. That broke a string of 14 consecutive seasons in which the exceedingly durable hurler racked up at least 200 frames.

In the end, Buehrle racked up 51.9 fWAR and 59.2 rWAR over his career. By Fangraphs’ measure, only four other pitchers — Roy Halladay, CC Sabathia, Randy Johnson, and Roy Oswalt — were as productive over Buehrle’s active seasons, over which he paced all of baseball in total innings. In that span, he received five All-Star nods and picked up four Gold Gloves, while never failing to make at least thirty starts in each of his full MLB seasons.

Assuming this is in fact the end, MLBTR congratulates Buehrle on his excellent career and extends its best wishes to him in his future endeavors.

Ken Oberkfell named Grizzlies Batting Coach

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The Grizzlies are adding another former Major League player to their field staff for the 2017 season. Ken Oberkfell, a former St. Louis Cardinal third baseman, will take over as the Grizzlies’ head hitting coach.

The former World Series champion spent 15 years in the majors, seven of which were with the Cardinals where he won the Fall Classic with them in 1982. During his time in the big leagues, the southern Illinois native put together a .278 career batting average with 1,354 hits and 446 RBIs.
“I’m happy and excited about this opportunity,” said Oberkfell. “I grew up in Maryville, Illinois and it’s great to be able to work for an organization that is close to home.”
Oberkfell has coaching experience that dates back to the early 2000’s. He has been involved with independent league, minor league, and major league clubs.  He took a break from coaching after the 2015 baseball season, where he coached the Lincoln Saltdogs of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball.
Oberkfell returns to independent league baseball for the 2017 season with a lot of excitement.
“It’s good baseball when you start working with these young kids that are hungry as they are trying to get to the minors.” Oberkfell said. “As a coach, when you get a chance to work with those players, it’s really enjoyable. I’m excited about working with Phil and helping him out in any way that I can.”
With the addition of new pitching coach and former MLB pitcher Randy Wells and now Oberkfell, Grizzlies’ manager Phil Warren will also see this season as a chance to learn.
“We look forward to learning from Ken as well as enjoying his presence on and off the field,” Warren said. “Our players will certainly benefit from his teachings and I look forward to watching him work.”
The Grizzlies’ Opening Day will be on May 12 against Florence Freedom. First pitch will come at 7:05 pm. For tickets and more information, call the box office at 618-337-3000
Source: Gateway Grizzles

Single Game Tickets on Sale this Friday!

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The St. Louis Cardinals announced today that individual tickets for the 2017 season will go on sale this Friday, February 24, beginning at 10 a.m. CT.

                Fans who wish to purchase tickets to three or more games will receive early access to take part in a special online-only “multi-game” ticket sale beginning Wednesday, February 22, at 10 a.m. CT.

                In addition to hosting top National League teams such as the Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates, Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants, the Cardinals’ 2017 home schedule features interleague matchups with American League East teams including the Toronto Blue Jays (April 25-27), Boston Red Sox (May 16-17) and Tampa Bay Rays (August 25-27); the Redbirds will host their American League rival, the Kansas City Royals, on August 9-10. 

This year’s schedule also features over 40 promotional dates, with many returning fan-favorites including eight bobbleheads, three replica rings, and seven replica jerseys as well as brand new items like an Adult Rhinestone Cap (May 21), Adult All-Over Print Shirt (June 10), Kids Baseball Glove (June 11) and Mike Shannon Alarm Clock (August 27).  Several promotional items will also commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1967 World Championship team and the 30th anniversary of the 1987 National League Championship squad.   While ticket demand is expected to be high, the Cardinals will continue to offer great values in 2017 with ticket prices starting as low as $5.  

                “Busch Stadium should be an enjoyable and affordable experience for all fans,” said Bill DeWitt III, President of the Cardinals. “Thanks to our dynamic ticket pricing system, we’re able to provide great deals on a consistent basis.”

                The Cardinals’ dynamic pricing system allows the team to more accurately price tickets for individual games and provide fans more value.  In 2016, 78% of games featured tickets available for $10 or less and 30% of games featured tickets at $5 or below.  Throughout the season, the team will continue to offer “Dynamic Deals of the Week” highlighting outstanding ticket savings for fans, as well as a host of other fan-friendly values which can be found at cardinals.com/fanvalues.

                Sales for multi-game and single-game tickets are both available online at cardinals.com.  In addition, tickets for Friday’s on-sale are available via phone at 314-345-9000 or in person at the Busch Stadium Ticket Windows and kiosks.  A full list of fan-friendly values for the 2017 season follows:

 

2017 Fan-Friendly Values

  • Dynamic Pricing: Ticket prices fluctuate based on market value, meaning many games feature tickets as low as $5.
  • Great Promotional Giveaways: Premium items including seven replica jerseys, three replica rings and eight bobbleheads highlight a season of over 50 stadium giveaways and special promotions.
  • Outside Food & Drinks at All Games: Busch Stadium is the only St. Louis sports venue where fans may bring in their own food and drinks for all home games (some size and content restrictions apply).
  • KMOX 1120 First Pitch Tickets: At 9:00 a.m. CT on the day of each home game, fans may purchase a voucher good for two tickets for just $11.20 ($5.60 per ticket). Fans redeem their vouchers for actual tickets 15 minutes prior to game time. Tickets may be anywhere in the stadium from Field Box to Standing Room.
  • Hunter Family Sundays: On most Sundays, fans who purchase RF/LF Pavilion and RF Terrace tickets will receive a free Hunter hot dog and Coca-Cola.
  • Prairie Farms Ice Cream Sundays: Two hours prior to each Sunday game, enjoy games, prizes and free Prairie Farms ice cream and North Star frozen treats in the Ford Plaza.
  • AAA Discounts Rewards: AAA members receive a $10 discount off tickets on most Monday-Thursday home games.
  • Fill Up at Phillips 66: Fill up with eight (8) gallons or more at a participating Phillips 66 to receive a special discount ticket offer of up to 50% off many 2017 games.
  • Six Flags Double Play Combo: Get a Cardinals game ticket and a Six Flags ticket for only $55.
  • Ticket Packs: Several different 5-game and 10-game ticket packs are available, which feature discounted tickets to 2017’s best promotional giveaways and highest demand games.
  • Group Value Nights: Select games throughout the season where groups of 20 or more receive 50% off regular ticket prices.
  • Cards Cash: Stored money built into the barcode of your ticket, good for use at any Busch Stadium concession stand, kiosk or Team Store. Fans can add $12 Cards Cash to a ticket for just $10.

Source: St. Louis Cardinals

 

Cardinals and Molina are Talking

allstaryadios

As Yadier Molina enters his thirteenth year as a Cardinal he must be thinking if he will get an extension before he becomes a free agent in 2018. I hope they do extend this contract for  three years so he can retire as a Cardinal with seventeen years of service. One Cardinal I know that had seventeen years of service was Bob Gibson but the top dog that out scores time of service is Stan Musial with twenty two years. Today Jon Heyman reports that Cards GM John Mozeliak says that if the two sides can hammer out a deal, they would like to complete it before the start of the season, as is frequently the goal with extension talks.

Despite his advancing age, Molina remained productive in 2016, hitting .307/.360/.427 and receiving solid marks for his defense and framing while playing 147 games. He did miss brief periods over the course of his current deal due to a 2013 knee sprain and a 2014 torn thumb ligament, but he’s otherwise been remarkably durable, appearing in at least 136 games in three of the last four seasons. Molina’s career as a whole, of course, has been terrific, with eight Gold Gloves and seven All-Star berths.

At this point I find the importance of minor league catcher Carson Kelly to be the number two guy for Molina w as he winds down his career with the Cardinals.

Carson’s scouting report looks pretty good…..

His arm that fired 92-mph fastballs as a high school pitcher works very well at catcher, throwing out 34 percent of would-be basestealers over his first two years behind the plate. He’s a natural leader who works with pitchers and frames well. Offensively, it’s been a struggle, though he started to come around in the second half of 2015, with the cavernous confines of Palm Beach not doing him any favors. He’s likely never going to hit for a high average, but the raw power that enamored scouts in high school is definitely still there.

Some consider Kelly to be big for a catcher, but the fact that St. Louis manager Mike Matheny fit that description as well could work in his favor. If he can find some offensive consistency, something that started to show up in 2016, Kelly still has the chance to be a power-hitting regular.

Source: Charlie Wilmoth