Catcher Carson Kelly and righthanded pitcher Luke Weaver, both of whom finished the 2016 season in the majors, have been named the Cardinals’ minor league player and pitcher of the year, respectively. Both will be honored at the St. Louis Baseball Writers’ dinner on Jan. 15 at St. Louis Union Station Hotel.
Kelly, 22, converted from a third baseman to a catcher in 2014, hit .287 with six homers in 64 games at Class AA Springfield last season and then averaged .292 in 32 games at Class AAA Memphis. He hit .154 in 13 big-league at-bats with the Cardinals.
Kelly, a second-round pick as an Oregon high schooler by the Cardinals in 2012, was a minor league Gold Glover in 2015.
Weaver, 23, a first-round pick from Florida State in 2014, got a late start last season after suffering a fractured left wrist in a spring training accident while shagging fly balls. But, once cleared to play, he flourished immediately, compiling a 6-3 record and sparkling 1.40 earned run average at Springfield while striking out 88 and walking just 10.
Then, after he pitched two-hit shutout ball for six innings at Memphis in his first — and only — start at Triple-A, he was promoted to the Cardinals and made eight starts and one relief appearance in the final seven weeks of the season. He finished 1-4 with a 5.70 ERA at the major-league level, gaining his lone win by pitching six innings to beat Oakland 3-1 at home on Aug. 26.
That victory represented the only time the Cardinals won an interleague game at home last season as they finished 1-8.
Both Kelly and Weaver figure as key parts of the Cardinals’ future but probably not at the start of the season. General manager John Mozeliak is on record as saying that Kelly would benefit from regular playing time at Memphis, rather than serving as Yadier Molina’s backup.
To that end, the Cardinals recently signed three catchers to minor-league contracts, including Eric Fryer, who was Molina’s backup for the first three months of last season before being lost on a waiver claim.
Weaver figures to be behind a half dozen or so veteran starters, especially if Lance Lynn (elbow) and Michael Wacha (shoulder) are healthy. Weaver also seems slated for Memphis at the beginning of the the season.