Perhaps no member of the 2012 St. Louis Cardinals felt more pressure than Carlos Beltran, signed to replace the production of future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols. Beltran got out of the gates quickly, helping his new team do the same.
Veteran Matt Holliday continued to be a steady bat in the number three position, hitting for average and power while playing in 157 games.
Centerfielder Jon Jay took over the leadoff spot, making it his own. He ranked in the top 10 in the National League in batting average. Eliminating any trepidation about the Colby Rasmus trade, Jay played error-less ball for the entire season while making a number of highlight-reel catches.
David Freese remained healthy for his first entire season as a major leaguer. The third baseman placed in the top 20 in the National League in batting average and on-base percentage and hit 20 home runs for the first time.
All of those players and more were important to the success of the 2012 Cardinals, yet the man who is our selection as the top position player on the club is their rock behind the plate, Yadier Molina.
The 30-year-old put together the best offensive season of his career for the second consecutive year. He is the first St. Louis catcher ever to lead his team in batting in back-to-back seasons (.315 in 2012, .305 in 2011). Molina also paced the 2012 Cardinals in wins above replacement (WAR). His 6.3 mark was far ahead of the next-closest Cardinals, at 3.9 WAR.
Molina set new career-highs this season with 22 home runs, 76 RBI, 64 runs and 159 hits. Those 22 home runs are second only to Ted Simmons (26 in 1979) for the most by a Cardinals catcher in one season.
Molina’s numbers also stack up well on the national stage. Among all National Leaguers, Molina ranked fourth in batting average, 10th in one-base percentage (.373) and 14th in slugging (.501).
Not considered fast afoot by any measurement, Molina remains a very smart baserunner. He led all major league catchers with 12 stolen bases and had a success rate of 75 percent (12 of 15).
Of course, Molina’s reputation as baseball’s best catcher is well-deserved. His 32 runners caught stealing topped MLB. His 48 percent caught stealing rate ranked second in the game.
Molina picked three runners off base this season. That raised his career total to 45, which is the most among all catchers from 2004-2012.
His most-observed, but least measurable asset perhaps is his game-calling and stewardship behind the plate. Even without his offensive contributions, his defense could alone make him the team leader. Former MLB backstop and long-time Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan has called Molina the best defensive catcher he has ever seen.
That was one big reason ownership granted him the fourth-largest contract in team history before the season at five years, $75 million. Molina went on to prove he should be worth the large commitment.
We are pleased to announce that Yadier Molina is The Cardinal Nation/Scout.com St. Louis Cardinals Position Player of the Year for 2012.
Note: Link to article with links to all articles about previous award winners across the system club by club, schedule for upcoming announcements as well as 2012 team recaps, much of it exclusively for The Cardinal Nation subscribers.
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Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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