yadi molina won the who-to-project-next poll by 7 votes over juan encarnacion; i'm thinking we'll do yadi today and juancion over the weekend.
at about this time last year, i wrote about the cardinals' two youngest starting catchers before molina, ted simmons and tim mccarver. both took over full-time backstop duties at age 21; yadi was 22 last year when he assumed the post. here's how the three young'ns' lines compare:
yadi's line is clearly the weakest of the three, at least on the surface. but let's do a little spin doctoring. molina hit for about the same power as his elder youngsters did (.106 isolated power, vs .094 mccarver and .120 simmons) and walked about as often (1 per 17.7 plate appearances, vs 1:16 mccarver and 1:15 simmons); the biggest difference between his line and theirs is in batting average. and batting average, as we learned in the BABIP discussion, can be skewed by ephemeral factors that don't carry over from season to season. in molina's case, the obvious skewage occurred in the season's first two weeks, when he got 1 hit (a single) in 29 at-bats. from april 18 forward, molina's line looked like this:
which is a pretty fair approximation of mccarver's rookie line overall, and nearly equal to simmons' in terms of power and walk rate. here's how those two guys fared the next season:
both guys held the line on batting average while increasing their power; mccarver improved his plate discipline as well. those are the type of broad-based improvements good young hitters make, and there is reason to hope molina can make similar sophomore strides. it's pretty out of character for me to take the optimistic view; but then it's not every catcher who can hit 8 dingers in 400 at-bats at age 22, as yadi did last season.
here's a more arresting way to look at this: molina had a bad obp and bad slugging pct and has a long way to go before he contributes anything to the offense. he could make a quantam leap in ops (say, 75 points) and still be costing the team runs. but in light of his stellar glove work and his low salary, molina doesn't have to be a net positive with the bat; if he can just get the obp to .320 and the slugging avg to .385, he's an extremely valuable player. and if he can get the obp to .340 -- which i think is possible two to three years down the road -- he's an all-star candidate.
let's set molina for 500 at-bats. project from the gut -- no looking at ZIPS / PECOTA / etc until after the fact, nor at prior respondents' numbers. post your line first, then see what ev'ybody else put down. the usual categories:
- batting avg
- on-base pct
- slugging pct
i'll leave this open until tomorrow morning, then publish results. have at it.