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Cardinals promote Carson Kelly, activate Brayan Pena

The duo of Cardinals backup catchers are made possible to September roster expansion

MLB: Spring Training-St. Louis Cardinals at Washington Nationals Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

One day after sparsely-used St. Louis Cardinals backup catcher Alberto Rosario received a rare start behind the plate, the team promoted 22 year-old prospect Carson Kelly and activated veteran Brayan Pena as reinforcements for the big-league club.

Kelly, ranked by Viva El Birdos as the #15 prospect in the Cardinals organization entering the season, is a former third baseman whom the Cardinals have been grooming since he was drafted in 2012 as a potential future backstop, split time between AA Springfield and AAA Memphis this season. In 236 plate appearances in Springfield, he produced a .287/.338/.403 triple-slash line, good for a 115 wRC+, and in Memphis, in 126 plate appearances, he produced a triple-slash line of .292/.353/.381 for a 98 wRC+.

Brayan Pena was signed by the Cardinals last offseason as an earnest attempt to give Yadier Molina a more prominent backup than has been the norm for him, but unfortunately, he has been hobbled by numerous left knee injuries and has been limited to nine MLB plate appearances. Pena has recently been on rehab assignments with the Palm Beach Cardinals.

The inclusion of both players was easier by roster expansion; for September, MLB teams are allowed to have larger MLB rosters in the last month of the season as long as the players are on the team’s 40-man roster. Since neither Kelly nor Pena were on the 40-man (the latter had been on the 60-day Disabled List, which unlike the 15-day DL allows a player to not count towards the 40-man roster), the Cardinals were forced to make two roster moves to accommodate the catchers’ promotions: the team designated Dean Anna (87 wRC+ in Memphis at the age of 29) for assignment and transferred Seth Maness, long expected to be out for a considerable duration, to the 60-day DL.

What roles Kelly or Pena have going forward is yet to be determined. Yadier Molina’s job as starter should be very much safe for the time being, but given how little the club has been willing to use Alberto Rosario, it is entirely possible that the team will feel more comfortable giving Molina a somewhat decreased workload.