This article was originally published at the Redbird Daily by Colin Garner, and is now proud to call the Cards Conclave home. Throughout July, we’ll be re-running all 30 Prospect articles as we lead up to Colin’s Mid-Season Prospect Update later in the month.
In Collaboration with Kyle Reis and Birds On The Black, Colin Garner presents you with The Cardinals Top 30 Prospects! Today, we have #5, Andrew Knizner.
5. Andrew Knizner – C
7th Round – 2016 Draft
Entering age-23 season
wRC+ – Peoria: 124, Springfield: 133
|2017||22||-0.6||2 Teams||2 Lgs||AA-A||STL||95||393||361||45||109||23||1||12||51||1||2||23||49||.302||.349||.471||.820||170||13||5||0||4||1|
What I Like
You would be hard-pressed to find two bigger fans of Andrew Knizner than my friend Kyle Reis and me. Last season, he ascended. He hit .319 in his first professional season at Johnson City, so he didn’t exactly struggle. But, the Appy League is a step below the ACC (it’s one of the things I didn’t like about Knizner’s fellow NC State product Evan Mendoza), so it was difficult to put too much stock in his 2016 numbers.
Last year, he hit, and hit, and hit. In 44 games in Peoria, he hit .279 with eight homers and downright earned a promotion to Springfield at midseason.
While in Springfield, I saw him play several times and was consistently impressed. He showed an advanced feel for the strike zone for someone in his first full pro season. Most impressively, he used the whole field. On July 6, he smoked an opposite-field, walk-off homer to beat the RockHounds. It was a beautiful swing, made even better by the fact that it came so early in his time in Springfield.
He did such a good job going the other way, when he went to the Arizona Fall League, I wanted to see him beat elite velocity. He did just that. All three of his homers (which came in a mere 17 games) were to either left or left-center.
Defensively, Knizner is one of the most improved players in Cardinals camp this year. Mike Matheny raved about his improvement behind the dish, telling the Post-Dispatch it was one of the most positive developments of the Spring. Knizner’s arm is strong enough — he’s thrown out 45 percent of would-be base stealers in his minors career. His framing, at times one of the weakest aspects of his game, isn’t as good as Carson Kelly‘s but, as Matheny saw in camp, keeps getting better.
What I Don’t Like
That he’s blocked. Yadier Molina still has three years left on his contract, which is an absolute eternity when we’re talking development. Carson Kelly is also ahead of him, although the Molina situation affects Kelly’s development more than Knizner’s.
I think the club understands the caliber of hitter Knizner is and can be. While Kyle was in Jupiter, he only saw Knizner working at first base. That’s a huge development for a couple reasons. First, it would (theoretically) allow Knizner to be assigned to Memphis to start the season. He hit well enough in Springfield; more time there would be redundant.
Most importantly, though, it raises the bar for Knizner as a hitter. According to wRC+, first basemen are, on average, 18 percent better than the league. That means he’d have to hit significantly better than Jedd Gyorko did in 2017 just to be an average first baseman.
Honestly, as much as I like Knizner as a hitter, I don’t know that he has enough power to be an everyday first baseman. He profiles a lot like David Freese. He’s a line-drive hitter who consistently hits the ball to right field. Let’s put it this way: relative to the position, for Knizner to be as above average a first baseman as he would a catcher, he’d have to hit like 2012 David Freese, who hit 20 homers and had a 132 wRC+.
It’s a stupid high standard to hold a prospect to, but Knizner has earned that privilege by being one of the best and most consistent position players in the organization since the day he was drafted.
Thanks for reading!