St. Louis Cardinals catcher, Yadier Molina, will once again be Team Puerto Rico’s primary backstop.
On March 6th, Yadier Molina will begin another quest with Team Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic. Alongside former St. Louis Cardinals, Carlos Beltran, the two veterans will once again represent the island nation for a fourth consecutive Classic. They are just a few of players who played in the inaugural tournament in 2006.
Molina, the St. Louis Cardinals lone Puerto Rican player, will once again be asked to manage a young pitching staff and be a beacon of maturity for the island’s infield superstars, Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, and Javier Baez. If there is any doubt what Molina means to the Puerto Rican team just think of the accolades he receives for handling the Cardinals pitching staff.
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Every year we hear the same thing about Yadier Molina as a catcher. The tangibles of his defensive play and the intangibles of working with a pitching staff are just a couple of things that make him a complete catcher . As St. Louis Cardinals fans, we have also seen his development as a hitter in the big leagues.
Throughout his thirteen-year career, his overall game has him in consideration as one of the best catchers in the modern era, if not, the best. Yes, he is getting older and requires more maintenance, however, he has shown no signs of slowing down and he seems as hungry as ever to be at the top of his game.
So what can we expect from Molina and Team Puerto Rico?
Not much will change for Molina entering this year’s tournament. As I mentioned earlier, he will have a tough task managing a young Puerto Rican pitching staff to make sure of a lengthy stay in the tournament. But, if there is one catcher in the tournament up to the challenge, it’s Molina.
Many of the pitchers for Team Puerto Rico are very young and at the rookie level. Although Molina has seen his fair share of rookie pitchers, that doesn’t make his job any easier. Yadier will have the help of his brother, Jose Molina, to work with the pitching staff as well. Yadier’s ability to call and control the game with the pitching staff will be a huge factor for the Puerto Rican team.
If you have read any of my other work, you know that I believe there is no catcher better defensively than Yadier Molina. He is the gold standard for defense behind the plate. Again, nothing changes in the World Baseball Classic. He is the best catcher in Pool D and will limit the running game for opposing teams.
Offensively, Team Puerto Rico will look for him to continue his success at the plate and be a RBI producer. With the likes of Correa, Lindor, Baez, and Beltran in the lineup, there will be ample opportunity for Molina to bring in some runs. That will also depend on where he hits in the order.
Unlike Team USA, Puerto Rico’s roster offers a more traditional lineup card. Team Puerto Rico’s manager, Edwin Rodriguez, shouldn’t have a hard time creating his lineup with the amount of superstars he has.
The St. Louis Cardinals usually bat Molina 5th in the order or 6th. I think that is exactly where Molina will find himself in the Puerto Rican lineup. Team Puerto Rico needs Molina’s experience closer towards the top end of the lineup, just like in St. Louis.
If Molina can guide the pitching staff and be the catcher we Cardinals fans know him to be, Team Puerto Rico has a very good shot of making it to the second round and further. Puerto Rico’s pitching is relatively unknown to most hitters in the tournament, so look for Molina to exploit that moving forward.
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I know some Cardinals fans would prefer Molina to rest. While I normally would agree with you, the World Baseball Classic happens every four years and is a chance to represent his nation. As Cardinals fans, we should cheer for his success. For me, a fellow Puerto Rican, I’m hoping he leads the nation to the finals once again, but this time winning it. Vamos Puerto Rico!