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Catchers Austin Allen, Andrew Knizner tear up Texas League

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Backstop prospects thrive in Double-A.

MLB: Spring Training-Minnesota Twins at St. Louis Cardinals
Andrew Knizner
Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

In Thursday’s Gameday thread, Minor League Ball reader Dale Michael asked this:

“Looking for info on a couple of catchers, Andrew Knizner and Austin Allen. Both of these guys are getting some good hacks in Double A. Any chatter would be appreciated.”

Sure thing.

Austin Allen ranked 17th on the pre-season Minor League Ball San Diego Padres top 20 prospects for 2018 list. The comment at the time:

7) Austin Allen, C, Grade C+/B-: Age 24, fourth round pick in 2015 from Florida Tech, hit .283/.353/.497 with 22 homers, 44 walks, 109 strikeouts in 463 at-bats in High-A; threw out 21% of runners in ’17 and 20% in ’16; real power from the left side and a fair feel for the strike zone, might not hit for high averages at the top levels but power should carry forward; problem here is defense, as he’s not a bad receiver per se but has consistent problems throwing out runners; bat would be less attractive if he has to switch positions. ETA 2019.

Moved up to Double-A to open 2018, the Padres prospect is hitting a robust .338/.388/.716 with seven homers, five walks, and 12 strikeouts in 74 at-bats. The general outline here hasn’t changed: he has impressive left-handed power and a reasonable grasp of the strike zone. He’s hitting for both average and power so far this year and his strikeout rate has actually declined a bit, though I think long-term he is more of a power guy than a batting average/OBP type.

In 13 games behind the plate this year he’s committed zero errors and just one passed ball while throwing out 35% (seven of 20) of runners attempting to steal. Tiny sample, of course, but improved compared to past seasons. We’ll keep track of that as the season progresses but overall I think he can remain behind the plate. Although he is not young for Double-A I think raising his grade a notch to B-/C+ is reasonable and continued strong performance will get him firmly ensconced into the B range.

San Diego Padres Photo Day Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Allen isn’t the only hot catching bat in the Texas League: Cardinals prospect Andrew Knizner is ripping at Springfield, hitting a stunning .408/.473/.571 through 13 games with five walks and five strikeouts in 49 at-bats. He ranked fourth among Cardinals prospects pre-season with this comment:

4) Andrew Knizner, C, Grade B/B+: Age 23, seventh round pick in 2016 from North Carolina State University; not many teams have two elite catching prospects; hit combined .302/.349/.471 between Low-A and Double-A, skipping High-A completely, 12 homers, 23 walks, 49 strikeouts in 361 at-bats; not quite as selective as Carson Kelly but has more raw power and looked at home in Texas League a year out of college; glove was better than advertised and quite solid, threw out 45% of runners with very low passed ball and error rates; not as mobile as Kelly but reliable; can also play first base; I think he’s for real and deserves more notice than he’s received on a national basis; ETA 2019.

He’s raking again obviously. He’s also errorless through 13 games, though with two passed balls and with two of eight runners caught. Again, small sample, but his overall track record on defense is quite good and there are no doubts that he’ll remain behind the plate.

I’d move Knizner up to a B+/B. Continued strong production will get him higher than that by the end of the year and into the Top 50 prospects in all of baseball. He was 85th pre-season.

St Louis Cardinals Photo Day Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images