The St. Louis Cardinals announced today their 2016 Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year selections, honoring catcher Carson Kelly and right-handed pitcher Luke Weaver for their accomplishments on the field. Both Kelly and Weaver made their Major League debuts in 2016.
Kelly, 22, batted .289 with six home runs and 32 RBI in 96 games played between Springfield (AA) and Memphis (AAA). His contract was purchased by St. Louis on September 4 and he made his Major League debut the following day in Pittsburgh by smacking a double in his first at-bat.
The right-handed hitting Kelly was the youngest Cardinals catcher to make his Major League debut since Yadier Molina did so at 21 years and 326 days in 2004. During the 2016 season, Kelly was a Texas League All-Star and was named to the USA Team for the Futures Game during All-Star Week in San Diego. The 2015 Rawlings Gold Glove recipient at catcher for all of Minor League Baseball threw out 21-of-63 base stealers in Springfield and 6-of-24 in Memphis.
Kelly played for the Glendale Desert Dogs in the Arizona Fall League this off-season and made the Rising Stars Game, leading all league catchers with a .286 batting average while adding three home runs and 18 RBI over 21 games. His 18 RBI ranked second in the AFL and he posted a .387 on-base percentage with a 13-to-4 walk-to-strikeout ratio, the highest ratio in the league. The Cardinals second round draft selection in 2012 hit left-handed pitchers in the prospect-rich AFL at a .474 clip (9-19, 2 HR) and he batted .321 (9-28) with runners in scoring position.
"After being promoted from Springfield to Memphis in July, Carson earned a Major League call-up in September," said Gary LaRocque, Cardinals Director of Player Development. "His productive season was also highlighted by his selection to the Futures Game and being named to the Arizona Fall League Top Prospects Team."
Weaver, 23, was 7-3 with a 1.30 ERA over 13 total starts in the minor leagues between Springfield and Memphis. He posted an 0.92 WHIP, leading all Cardinals minor league full-season pitchers and struck out 92 in 83.0 innings. He made one start in Memphis, firing six scoreless innings of two-hit ball, before being purchased by St. Louis on August 13 when he made his Major League debut that day at Wrigley Field. Weaver was 1-4 with 45 strikeouts in nine appearances, including eight starts, for St. Louis.
Weaver, who was the Cardinals first round draft choice in 2014, joined Alan Benes (1995) and Stu Miller (1952) as only the third Cardinals pitcher to record 10 strikeouts in one of his first four career starts when he reached the double-digit mark at Milwaukee on August 31 in his fourth career start. The Cardinals Minor League Pitcher of the Month for June was also named a Texas League post-season All-Star.
"Luke's impressive work in June earned him our Pitcher of the Month honors while in Springfield," commented LaRocque. "Following his August promotion to Memphis, he soon-after made his Major League debut for the Cardinals.'
Both players will be presented with their awards at the 2017 St. Louis Baseball Writers of America Dinner on January 15.