On Thursday afternoon, the Cardinals formally named catcher Carson Kelly and pitcher Luke Weaver the organization's Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year, respectively.
The 22-year-old Kelly made his big-league debut on September 5 as a call-up and went on to notch a double, drive in a run, and log 36 innings over the ten games he appeared in for the club during the season's final month. The Cardinals drafted Kelly in the second round of the 2012 MLB Draft out of high school as a third baseman and shortly thereafter converted him to a catcher, a position where the 2016 Texas League All-Star has managed a .993 fielding percentage across his Minor League career with an 8.32 range factor in 2,387 innings of fieldwork.
Kelly is expected to begin the 2017 season in the Minors, where he will be able to develop in a more thorough manner than if he were to serve as the backup to Yadier Molina. Also, the possible need for Kelly to serve as a backup to Molina is not as prominent as it was when the offseason began, as the Cardinals have since released Brayan Pena and signed Eric Fryer, who is slated to be Molina's understudy when the new season commences. Alberto Rosario also remains an option for the Cardinals behind the plate.
Weaver breezed through the Cardinals' organizational ladder, especially in 2016. The 23-year-old Weaver had the start of his season delayed by a broken left wrist, but the right-handed hurler rebounded well and landed at Double-A Springfield for twelve starts and on to Triple-A Memphis for an outing before -- as the result of Michael Wacha's injury flare up -- being promoted to the Majors in August.
In nine games (eight starts), Weaver surrendered 23 earned runs and managed a pleasing 45:12 strikeout-to-walk ratio across 36 1/3 frames. With Lance Lynn slated to return and Alex Reyes likely the club's fifth starter, Weaver may begin the season as a member of the big-league bullpen, or perhaps even at the Triple-A level, where he'd iron out the flaws he came across during his stint in the Majors in 2016.
Weaver and Kelly will be honored at the annual St. Louis BBWAA Dinner on Sunday, January 15; Weaver is scheduled to sign autographs for fans at the Cardinals Care Winter Warm-Up on Saturday, January 14, and Kelly will do the same on the 15.