Perhaps the tagline is a bit misleading. Andrew Knizner is not Yadi’s “heir apparent” in the sense that he’ll likely reach the same level of production. Hardly anyone in the sport does. He is, however, the next man up in the catching pipeline now that Carson Kelly resides in Arizona.
Predicting how exactly Knizner’s 2019 will go is a tough task, given how many different paths the season could take. Yadi could be an ironman, relegating Knizner to the high-minors for the entire season to continue honing his craft. Not that that would be a bad option by any means, seeing as how tricky catcher development can be both offensively and defensively. Then again, Yadi could succumb to the wear and tear and land on the shelf for a considerable amount of time, pushing Knizner into his first taste of MLB action. Playing time is the x-factor here, but how has his production stacked up in the minors?
Knizner was drafted in the seventh round of the 2016 Draft out of North Carolina State. He played mostly third base with some time at catcher during college, with his offensive profile consisting of strong contact skills, above-average on base skills and below average power output. The low power output was even more concerning given the fact that he’d never really performed in wood bat leagues. Upon being drafted, Knizner was assigned to Johnson City where he lapped the competition to the tune of a .319/.423/.492 in 53 games. He was playing competition a bit below his level to be sure, but the contact/on-base skills held up and the power was surprising.
His first full season of affiliated ball began at Peoria. For the Chiefs, Knizner slashed .279/.325/.480 in 44 games before jumping Palm Beach entirely and being pushed to Springfield. In AA, he kicked things into another gear and slashed .324/.371/.462 in 51 games. All in all, his first full season resulted in a .302/.349/.471 line and surprisingly positive reviews of his defense. With more work, it seemed, he’d be able to be average behind the dish.
Fast forward to 2018, and Knizner opened the season at the level he left off at in Springfield. He eventually pushed his way onto Memphis, and posted an overall line of .313/.368/.430. At every stop along the way he’s run strikeout rates in the low 10%’s while posting walk rates in the 5-7% range. Consensus still seems to be that he’ll stick at catcher, where his bat will profile nicely. So now the question is, how do you think his 2019 will go?