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Cardinals' Knizner named AFL Hitter of the Week

Saguaros catcher notched four-hit game and two-homer performance
MLB.com

St. Louis Cardinals catching prospect Andrew Knizner was named the Arizona Fall League Player of the Week on Tuesday.

Knizner has performed well for the Surprise Saguaros for the entirety of the short season, beginning the campaign with at least one hit in each of the seven games he's played in, but last week's performance was particularly award-worthy.

St. Louis Cardinals catching prospect Andrew Knizner was named the Arizona Fall League Player of the Week on Tuesday.

Knizner has performed well for the Surprise Saguaros for the entirety of the short season, beginning the campaign with at least one hit in each of the seven games he's played in, but last week's performance was particularly award-worthy.

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He began the week by going 1-for-4, but he exploded on Tuesday by going 4-for-5 before rounding out the week with a multi-home run game on Friday. By the time the week was through, Knizner had tallied eight hits, the two homers and five RBIs in just 17 at-bats.

"The awards and stuff just take care of themselves," Knizner said. "I just try to go out and play hard and have a good approach every at-bat and try to win the game."

Knizner is currently the No. 27 prospect in the Cardinals' farm system, but he began the preseason unranked after being drafted 226th overall out of North Carolina State in 2016.

Video: Cardinals prospect Knizner discusses his growth

In the less than two years since being drafted, Knizner has risen from Rookie-level ball to Double-A, playing 51 games for the Springfield Cardinals this past season, hitting .327 with four home runs and 22 RBIs.

Knizner credits hitting coach Jobel Jimenez's presence in the AFL as a factor on his continued improvement at the plate.

"Our hitting coach is Jobel, he's the same hitting coach I had in Springfield in Double-A this year, so we are just continuing on with what we were working on in Springfield and trying to carry it over into the Fall League."

More impressive than his hitting numbers during that time was his defense behind the plate. He threw out 50 percent of potential base-stealers and cut down on his passed balls, which were understandably high earlier in his career as he continued to acclimate following a position change from third base to catching in college.

"It's tough, for sure," Knizner said. "Catching is one of the harder positions on the field, and being a converted guy it has definitely taken some time, but it's something I think I've adjusted to well and something I'm going to continue to work on."

Although his catching ability has improved, a chance still remains that his path to the Major Leagues will lead him to converting back to third base, or maybe even first base, where he played some in the Minor Leagues.

Currently ahead of Knizner at the catcher position is longtime Cardinal and multiple time Gold Glove recipient Yadier Molina, as well as former second round pick Carson Kelly (Cardinals' No. 2).

Video: Top Prospects: Carson Kelly, C, Cardinals

Kelly, who is also a converted third baseman, has impressed with both his glove and his bat, earning him 34 games with the Major League club in 2017.

For now, however, Knizner is just happy to be playing baseball and making the most out of this opportunity.

"I'm loving it," Knizner said. "I'm coming out here every day, getting to play against the best players in Minor League Baseball, it's a great experience."

Joshua Clark is a senior journalism student at Arizona State University. This story is part of a partnership between MLB.com and ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

St. Louis Cardinals