Exit Interview 2017: Carson Kelly

For the sixth straight year, we’re taking a look back at everyone that played for the St. Louis Cardinals this season.  Whether they were a major contributor or a bit player, here all year or for just a little while, we’ll look at their season and talk about what went right and what went wrong.  The stat line listed is just their time in St. Louis, though splits and other numbers in the discussion may be for the entire year.  Imagine this as them stopping by Mike Matheny‘s office for a little review on their way home for the winter.  As always when you see incredible artistry in the blogs, all credit for the header work goes to @cardinalsgifs.

Player: Carson Kelly

Season stats: 34 G, 75 PA, 5 R, 3 2B, 6 RBI, 5 BB, 11 K, .174/.240/.217, 23 OPS+, -0.4 bWAR

Hero/Goat: Goat 1

Overall grade: C

Positives: Got two of his 12 hits August 29 against Milwaukee….also scored two of his five runs in that game….ended the season with a three game hitting streak….hit .211 on the road and all three doubles came away from Busch….hit .227 with two outs in an inning….hit .294 with a .791 OPS with runners in scoring position….hit .429 (3-7) with two outs and RISP….hit .263 with 10 homers for Memphis….hit .419 in nine day games in Memphis….had a .319 average with runners in scoring position at AAA.

Negatives: Still has yet to have a .200 average in the big leagues….went 1-10 against lefties….had a .129 average at Busch….was 0-8 when he hit the first pitch….hit .154 in late and close situations….hit .053 against fly ball pitchers….went 1-18 against the Cubs….had a .551 OPS in June at Memphis….hit .239 with two outs in Memphis.

Overview: When the Cardinals cast aside Eric Fryer at the end of July and brought Kelly to the big leagues, the general expectation was that they wouldn’t be doing that if Kelly wasn’t going to get some notable playing time.  It wasn’t like Fryer was doing much more than spelling Yadier Molina once a week or so, but the idea was they wouldn’t bring Kelly up just to sit and perhaps affect his development negatively.  And, in truth, Kelly wound up playing about as many games as Fryer did in less time.  He started 14 of the 67 games after he was called up, which is a 21% clip, though that is of course skewed by starting the last six in a row due to Molina’s concussion issue.  (Fryer started 15 of 95 or 16%.)

Still, it felt like we didn’t see much of Kelly at all.  Part of that was the fact that Molina heated up and the club went on a bit of a roll as well, getting in the race and making it difficult to bench Molina given his offensive exploits.  The less generous would point some fingers at the manager.  I do wonder if there was an expectation that Kelly would play more or if it was an attempt to light a fire under an understandably proud Molina.  Whatever the case, it still feels like we don’t know what the Cardinals really have in the young catcher.

Outlook: With Andrew Knizner doing well in the Arizona Fall League and Molina’s three-year extension just beginning in 2018, there are likely to be a number of rumors about Kelly when the club starts with their trading this offseason.  It would seem more likely that they’ll hold on to him if they can, but if they feel he’s done enough at Memphis they may go ahead and move him rather than see him rust on the bench.  If he stays, hopefully there will be a serious plan in place to get him regular at bats, perhaps by making him the personal catcher to someone in the rotation.

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