Cardinals' Ivan Herrera Knows What Must Be Done To Catch On
For years, the Cardinals have been preparing for the inevitable, unsure of when it would arrive but certain it would.
The organization had developed a succession of catching prospects to be ready when longtime and highly-decorated receiver Yadier Molina retired, leaving the Cardinals with their first search for a new Opening Day starter since 2004.
Carson Kelly rose, debuted and played little until he was traded. Andrew Knizner has served at backup longer than anyone, and he’s currently the catcher-in-waiting.
But in 2022, the Cardinals caught a glimpse at a most-heralded prospect, born the same month Molina was drafted.
Ivan Herrera had his chance to accelerate his arrival.
He gave them both encouragement and pause.
The 22-year-old Herrera appeared in 11 games for St. Louis and spent almost a month getting a feel for game preparation and calling. He adjusted well to the speed of the game but returned to Triple-A Memphis in July with the assignment of improving his pitch sequencing and calling games as if dealing with big league hitters.
The Cardinals also want Herrera to continue to improve on receiving and framing pitches, particularly low in the zone.
The description used often for Herrera, who signed out of Panama in 2016, was a compliment.
“Calm as can be,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “He slowed the game down. His game awareness is pretty good.”
As was the case for Knizner and Kelly before him, Herrera has improved behind the plate as he has moved toward the majors, and like them he has a solid arm and flexibility behind the plate. Herrera shadowed Molina to become deft blocking balls.
In 65 Triple-A games this season, Herrera hit .268/.374/.396 with six home runs. He makes contact, and the Cardinals believe that will help him through a steep learning curve in MLB.
But for that to happen, Herrera's defense has to be tighter, more consistent. That will shape the Cardinals’ decision on whether the time is coming for Molina’s latest heir or if the time is now.
— Outfielder Moises Gomez, once a top 10 prospect in the Rays' system, set a Cardinals’ minor league record with 39 home runs, besting the previous record of 37 set by Tyrone Horne (1998) and Felix DeLeon (1962). The 24-year-old Gomez signed with the Cardinals as a minor league free agent for the 2022 season. He slimmed down and slugged his way to a .321/.401/.705 line at Double-A Springfield before a promotion to Triple-A Memphis to finish the year.
— Assistant general manager Randy Flores, who has overseen the Cardinals’ draft since 2016 as scouting director, signed a multi-year contract extension in October. Flores, a former lefty reliever in the majors, is considered a rising talent as an executive, a potential future leader of a team’s baseball operations, and the Cardinals wanted to keep him in a growing executive role.