Every year since 2012, we’ve spent some time after the season looking back at those that wore the Birds on the Bat. Whether it’s a bit player that got into just a couple of games or someone that played almost every day, we’ll look at their stats, their positives, their negatives, and grade them based on what we would have expected from them. The stat line is from their time in St. Louis, though splits and other numbers may include time with other teams, if applicable. Think of this as like the players packing up their locker and then seeing Mike Shildt before they head off for the winter. Once again, our great header work comes to us from cardinalsgifs, who continues to be a master.
Player: Carson Kelly
Season stats: 19 G, 42 PA, 1 R, 4 H, 3 RBI, 3 BB, 7 K, .114/.205/.114, -9 OPS+, -0.5 bWAR
Overall grade: C
Positives: For the third straight year, got into at least 10 games at the major league level….had two of his hits and one of his RBI in a September game against the Tigers….hit .269 with seven homers during his third tour of Memphis….hit .289 in games away from AutoZone Park….hit .286 when batting fourth in Memphis’s lineup….hit .280 with the bases empty for the Redbirds….had a 1.111 OPS when he was ahead in the count at AAA….walked as many times as he struck out (48) down on the farm.
Negatives: Was called up in May when Yadier Molina went down and quickly lost playing time to Francisco Pena….was called up when rosters expanded but got just 13 plate appearances and none after September 15….his last hits of the season came in that game against the Tigers, going 0-6 in three games after that time….in four of his 19 games he did not receive an at bat….hit .215 in April down at Memphis before coming around….was 3-19 in Memphis’s day games….hit .143 in the first inning at AAA….had a .539 OPS in late and close situations for the Redbirds.
Overview: Another year, another misuse of Carson Kelly. At least that’s what it felt like to many fans. Going into the spring, it looked like Kelly would be the backup for Molina, but instead he struggled at Jupiter and Pena played well enough to take his spot. (It probably didn’t hurt that Pena seemed to get Molina’s seal of approval. I’m not completely sold that Yadi has bonded that much with Kelly.) Kelly then spent much of the year back in Memphis where he continued to show that he had nothing really to prove there, something John Mozeliak admitted after the season. It’s tough to get major league playing time when Molina is going to play basically every inning down the stretch but Kelly didn’t grab the chance he had earlier in the year when Molina was out with his horrific injury, either. It would have been nice to see the Cardinals install him as the everyday catcher then and let Pena stay as the backup, but it was not to be. Honestly, you wonder if Kelly was ever going to get the playing time to prove that he could be that front line catcher even if he did hit.
Outlook: The club seems to know that Kelly needs to be in the major leagues. Yet after another age-defying year from Molina, it’s hard to see how he could get more than 150 at bats in the bigs next season. Kelly is still young, of course–he’ll be going into his age 24 season–but you start to wonder about rust and the lack of growth. If the Cardinals wind up making a trade for some sort of larger piece, it would be very believable to see them add Kelly to the deal, sign Pena again to back up, and let Andrew Knizner continue to develop at Memphis. Barring that, though, Kelly should be Molina’s backup next year and hopefully has a very good home remedy for removing splinters.