In 2015, Yadier Molina was a shell of his former self.
In a full (catcher’s) season worth of games (136), Molina slashed just .270/.310/.350. And while he was still his useful self behind the plate, it was his worst season there in a while, by DRS and number of other defensive metrics.
Still, I’m not going to argue that he offers far more value than the traditional or advanced numbers let on, especially as a catcher, even if that narrative has been taken to the extreme in St. Louis.
All of which is why Cardinals fans were in quite a panic this offseason, when word broke that his first thumb surgery in mid-October didn’t go as planned and that he would need another surgery to finally fix the problem. (The original injury, by the way, came on an Anthony Rizzo slide at home at Wrigley Field, as he was thrown out by Jason Heyward.)
Last we heard, Molina caught an Adam Wainwright bullpen session (on March 2), but had yet to swing a bat since undergoing his second surgery. Even with most of his value coming from behind the plate, an inability to hit or even prepare for the season, was reason enough to suggest that he won’t be ready for Opening Day.
Today, there’s another update, but this time it’s good news for Molina and the Cardinals. Although manager Mike Matheny wouldn’t say explicitly that Molina will be his catcher on Opening Day, he did say that Molina has checked all of the boxes he needed to in his rehab and preparation for the season.
“He’s ready,” Matheny told Cardinals.com. “We’ll continue to monitor strength and keep testing him, but right now everything is in a good spot. We look forward to him continuing to get timed up as far as his at-bats go, which have been looking very good also. We just want to make sure that as he gets more chances to play that he continues to have good responses in the training room with the strength. But so far, he’s right where he needs to be.”
However you feel about Molina and his current value to the Cardinals, there’s no denying that his presence will help the Cardinals, overall. His game calling ability, knowledge of the pitchers and defensive skills should mostly be unaffected by the thumb injury, alone, so look for him to continue being a nuisance to the Cubs in 2016.
And, hey, it’s not like you want the Cubs to beat the Cardinals without Molina there, right?
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.