Over the course of four days during the second week of July I released my list of the Top 30 Prospects in the Cardinals system. You can find prospects 1-10 HERE, prospects 11-20 HERE, and prospects 21-30 HERE.
Since publishing the list, SS Paul DeJong, our 8th ranked prospect at the time, passed the 130 at-bat threshold that constitutes the breaking point for exhausting a players rookie eligibility. Thus, DeJong is no longer eligible for the list.
So, with everyone on the list moving up one spot from 8 to 29, we have a vacancy at the 30-spot on our list. And, with that, so enters:
#30. Catcher Andrew Knizner: Age 22 – 7th Round, 2016
2017 Stats: Peoria. Springfield: 61 Games, 244 AB, 68 H, 15 Doubles, 1 Triple, 10 HR, 36 RBI, 1 SB, 1 CS, 13 BB, 35 SO, 279/326/471/797. 115 Total Bases
There is a lot of information worth knowing about who Andrew Knizner is and what he has already accomplished in his baseball career.
First, Knizner was drafted in 2016 as a true-junior out of North Carolina State University. Knizner was a hell of an athlete and could have played short stop at most colleges, but he was moved to 3rd base to accommodate the incumbent short stop at NC State, Trea Turner. Makes sense.
During his freshman year in 2014, while getting his first taste of playing 3rd base, Knizner ended the season as a Freshman All-American first-teamer at 3rd base. That’s pretty impressive, especially for a player that was playing 3rd base for the first time, regularly, in his life. Especially for a true freshman playing in a big college conference like the ACC.
Shortly after the season ended Knizner was told that he would be transition from third base to catcher. Over the next two seasons, 2015 and 2016, Knizner continued to learn and hone his craft as a catcher. Reports indicate that his sophomore year behind the plate was rough. He seemed to hit his stride as a junior, but at the cost of some of his offensive skills. The uncertainly of where he was going to play and how his bat was going to play at whatever position he settled at kept him on the draft board until the Cardinals could draft him in the 7th round.
Another thing about Knizner is that he is a very intelligent kid. In 2016 Knizner became the first NC State Academic All-American in sixteen seasons. He was a three time All-ACC academic team member and he finish his career at NC State with a GPA of 3.8.
After a stellar 2016 organizational debut at Johnson City in which he slashed 319/423/492/915 with 6 HR and a 1/1 K to BB ratio, Knizner was given an advanced promotion to Full-Season Peoria to start the 2017 season. Knizner got off to a great start for Peoria and in his first 33 games 309/365/537/902 with 7 HR, 8 doubles, 22 RBI, 9 BB, and 13 strikeouts in 136 at bats. Knizner’s season hit a rough patch after that. He came down with a mysterious illness for a 10 day patch that really destroyed his stat line. The good news is, Knizner went back to his hot hitting ways when he got healthy and that earned him a promotion over Palm Beach to Double-A Springfield.
Knizner struggled at Springfield at first, but he’s starting to show signs of busting back out and into his normal self. After going 5 for his first 40 to start his Double-A career, he has gone 13 for his last 30 during a seven game hit streak that has also yielded 2 HR’s and 2 Doubles. Also, he has only struck out four times while walking twice over his last seven games. Knizner is back on track at the plate. Behind the plate, all indications are that he is continuing to develop and that he has a strong feel for how to handle a pitching staff. Not bad for a kid who is only in his third season behind the plate.
There are some things that Knizner needs to work on. He does a good job of blocking the ball in the dirt, but he could always get better at it. he’s about average at it right now. Knizner is a little slow behind the plate, too. His arm is strong, but he’s a bit behind on pop time and he still loads a little too long to throw plus-runners out on the base paths. I do think it’s a telling sign for the organization that Knizner was with the big club’s camp at the onset of spring training while Yadi was away at the WBC. I believe that the organization believes he can stick at catcher.
Offensively, there isn’t much to not like about Knizner’s game. He’s a complete hitter who takes walks, strikes out infrequently, hits the ball hard, and can leg out a double. It’s all about consistency and adjustments from this point on for the advanced hitting Knizner.
Knizner’s defense will determine if he works his way up the list or finds his way off of it over the next few years. Right now, he is more Cody Stanley than he is Carson Kelly from a prospect standpoint. The best thing about Knizner is that he is athletic and intelligent enough to switch to a corner infield spot if his career as a back-stop falters. His bat will certainly play at any of the three spots he’s capable of playing.