photo: Steven Baron (Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports Images)
In mid-December, the St. Louis Cardinals signed catcher Steven Baron to a minor league contract for the 2018 season. The deal includes a non-roster invitation to big-league spring training camp, reported the Post-Dispatch. The now-27-year old was originally drafted as a high schooler by the Seattle Mariners in the first round, 33rd pick overall, of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft as a compensation selection.
The Miami, Florida native methodically worked his way through the Mariners system, and made his MLB debut in September 2015. Baron was returned to Double-A in 2016 and did not make it back to Seattle before being designated for assignment, and subsequently released in November 2016.
The 6-foot, 205-pounder then re-signed with Seattle on a minor league deal for 2017 and spent most of last season at Triple-A. Baron also played in 16 games back in the Texas League, with 2017 his fourth consecutive year having spent time at Double-A.
In his seven-year minor league career, the right-handed hitter has an aggregate line of .235/.295/.339/.634. Known for his defense, Baron has earned a solid 40.3 percent caught stealing rate over his career.
Baron could open 2018 at Double-A Springfield, the level at which he ended 2017, or his experience could place him at Memphis. It will all depend on the perceived readiness of TCN 2017 Player of the Year Andrew Knizner for his initial Triple-A duty. My estimate as the pair to handle the catching duties for the Redbirds are an earlier free agent signee Francisco Pena backing up Knizner, but these decisions are what spring camp is about.
Essentially, Pena and Baron replace veterans Alberto Rosario and Gabriel Lino, who spent most of 2017 at Memphis and Springfield, respectively, before leaving as minor league free agents following the season.
When all is said and done, this could be the assignment tiebreaker. With Carson Kelly already blocked at St. Louis for the next three seasons by Yadier Molina, the organization may not be highly motivated to move another top prospect catcher in Knizner upward too aggressively.
Brian Walton’s take
Ok, the entire article above was already my take, but I just could not resist using another paragraph to point out what I believe to be a most striking resemblance between Baron and late-night television host and comedian Jimmy Fallon.
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