After Puerto Rico, what can we expect from World Baseball Classic hero Yadier Molina in 2013?

Al Bello

The St. Louis Cardinals don't have Yadier Molina back yet, but he's getting some reps in.

Yadier Molina is still not in spring training with the St. Louis Cardinals, but if you've watched any World Baseball Classic--including but not limited to Puerto Rico's 4-3 win over Team USA on Friday--I'm not altogether sure why that woudl worry you. Which is not to say you shouldn't be worried: Yadier Molina is coming off a huge career year and about to start a five-year contract. What can we expect from him in 2013?

Trigger warning: There are some very scary hitting projections out there. Scary in what way? Scary in a two-career-years-back kind of way. Here's ZiPS and (erg) 2012 and (ack) 2011 and (oh, god) 2010:

2010 .262 .329 .342
2011 .305 .349 .465
2012 .315 .373 .501
ZiPS .289 .350 .426

PECOTA and Steamer and Bill James, even, are in broad, unnerving agreement: The Projected Yadier Molina is nestled in between 2009 Molina and 2011 Molina, with 2012 Molina nowhere to be found.

In Projected-Molina's defense, of course, he's still earned a 4.6 WAR projection from ZiPS. But the gap between that Molina—still one of the best catchers in baseball—and the one the Cardinals got in 2012 could be wider than the gap between an average shortstop and Pete Kozma.

Of course, there's not much to be done about that; that Molina is two wins below a replacement-MVP is more a curiosity, or a blunt-force way of worrying about the 2013 Cardinals, than a way of evaluating Molina himself.

So what does Molina's future look like to you? I'm hoping a little more of that power sticks, because he's got a lot of decline path left to manage. But I'm not sure how much I can ask for—the projections are, after all, suggesting that a 30-year-old catcher with 1082 MLB games played will outperform his career slugging percentage by 30 points or so, and put together the third-best season of his career with the bat.

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