Prospect #4: Catcher, Andrew Knizner
Previously Ranked 5th in preseason, 3rd at July Reranking
Drafted in the 7th round of the 2016 draft
THE QUICK WRITE UP
Lately, it seems like one of the organization mandates has been to draft really smart players. Not just "baseball smart" but "class room" smart. Other than Paul DeJong, there isn't a player in the organization that exemplifies this on the same level as Andrew Knizner. Another prospect with a baseball-journey-story that you know but I have to recap because blah blah blah, Knizner was a third baseman that was turned into a catcher. This is only his fourth season behind the plate and he's made tremendous gains during the process. He still gets a little stabby with his glove and he's had a little trouble throwing out base runners because all of the pitchers in the organization are relatively slow to the plate, but everything else about his game as a catcher is good. He calls a very good game. He does well with pitches in the dirt more often than not. He does, again, get a little stabby. He has a good arm. Knizner is a solid-developing catcher and he is showing signs of getting better. That's gotta keep up.
At the plate is where Knizner really shines. He has a beautiful swing with beautiful mechanics. He has a perfect timing mechanic and a perfect "all-fields" approach that really helps his advanced hit tool shine. Sometimes, Knizner gets a little jumpy and excited at the plate, but those moments are few and far between. "Kiz" does have power in the tank, even if it hasn't manifested yet, fully. He's a stout and strong kid and I see easy 15-20 home run power if he ever decides to go in that direction. He's had a weird season in which he's buoyed back and forth between Memphis and Springfield and that hasn't helped him, either. I do know that he'd do well to increase his power at Springfield because that's the only part of his game lacking. Kiz is "Memphis-ready" and I'm bullish on his future, even if a move to first base ends up being his ultimate future.
*UPDATED ON 8/23/2018*
Knizner's fall two spots on the list as we approach the end of the season has nothing to do with his production or potential and everything to do with the Rise of Elehuris Montero and Nolan Gorman. As a matter of fact, Knizner's power and prospect-stock was just starting to "boom" when he took a ball to the head earlier in the month. It was the worst timing, but he's back now and he's starting to tap back into the power. His future is still very bright!
WHY TO GET EXCITED
Kiz has the potential to be an average or above major league catcher if he continues to clean up the mechanics. He's come a long way in just four short years behind the plate, but, like with all catchers at all levels, he still needs work.
My favorite thing about Knizner's game is that his power is gap-power. He supplies both the right field and left field gaps with doubles and home runs.
Most of his singles are of the up-the-middle variety.
Pitchers love to throw to him and he calls his own games well.
He's capable of yanking a ball down the line, but that's not his current style
All of this makes it hard to shift in any capacity against Knizner. Teams shade the gaps with him, but it hasn't changed his approach and it hasn't changed his success.
Knizner is strong and stocky, but not in the way that my out of shape bum is "strong and stocky." I think of Knizner strength and body-type like I used to think of Scott Rolen's. That is to say, it seems practical and not manufactured. The manufactured-type takes a lot of work to keep up with.
Because of his body type, there is still power to be had. I firmly believe that Knizner has at least one season of 20 home runs in him. It'll just depend on if he's ever willing to adjust his plus contact tool in a way that would breed more pop.
His swing is the kind of swing that you'd teach to your little league team. It's follow through and mechanics remind me a bit, JUST A BIT, of Mike Piazza's and that's mostly because, like Piazza, Knizner is never off balance.
Knizner has a strong arm. he's let up a lot of stolen bases, but I'd say the vast majority of those stolen bases have been off of the pitcher.
I'm not advocating this (yet), but Knizner always has first base to fall back on if he doesn't eventually check all of the boxes that you'd want a catcher to check. Hell, even if the Cardinals needed help at first base they'd do well to move him there to get his bat to the majors.
Knizner doesn't get fooled by advanced breaking balls. This might be why I'm the most bullish on his bat. He takes a professional at-bat and he has great plate coverage, while, at the same time, he's aware of what his strengths are and he plays to those strengths.
Having Knizner on the list gives me one last chance to pimp the NC State baseball program. I love the way that they teach and cultivate the sport and I love the players that are coming out of that program.
Knizner is one of the four or five most academically gifted players in the organization. Added to this, Knizner is also one of the five or six most baseball-smart players in the organization. The combination of these two levels of intelligence will help him reach his ultimate ceiling with more accuracy than your average prospect.
He made the MLB Future's Star roster, and that's pretty cool.
Andrew Knizner is 110% ready for the grind and challenge of Triple-A.
WHY TO BE CAUTIOUS
While I think Kiz has made solid strides behind the plate, there are some that believe he won't stick as a catcher. He gets a little stabby while trying to frame the ball and that works against him.
The other big knock on him is that he swipes at the ball in the dirt with his glove instead of using his body to collapse on it. This is because he's only been a catcher for less than a handful of years. Until then, he was either a short stop or a third baseman and the swiping motion was essential to his success at those defensive positions.
The only big knock about Knizner's bat is that the power hasn't manifested consistently yet. He's turned the power on recently, but he only had three home runs over the 68 games he played between the start of the season and July 20th.
I believe that the jockeying back and forth between Memphis and Springfield earlier in the year really worked against Kiz's stats. He adapted well to AAA, but he was just starting to heat up when he was demoted back to AA. I believe that the power and slug would have materialized sooner and at Triple-A. This goes to show you how delicate the developmental process can be. If Andrew Knizner, one of the most mature players in the organization, can struggle with these kinds of things then how could someone less mature thrive on a track that isn't ideal? The answer is "they can't"
The main issue with Knizner's defense is that being a catcher day in and day out is the most difficult thing to do in all of baseball. The true test for him will be to see if he can handle the work load without falling off for multiple days on-end. Right now, you can tell a difference between Knizner the catcher on day one after a day off and day three or four after a day off. This is EXTREMELY common and it's usually what separates the leGit catchers from all of the other catchers.
Where I get caught with Knizner is that I think his bat will be something between 2012 and 2013 Allen Craig. Maybe Avisail Garcia is the more appropriate and concise comparison. Defensively, I don't really know what to say because I have a terrible feel for how a catcher is going to pan-out defensively. What I'll say is that, if I'm wagering, his ceiling is probably that of an average defensive catcher.
Thank you to Fangraphs for supplying the stats.
Thanks For Reading!!