Andrew Knizner became the second player from NC State's 2016 draft class to debut, getting the start at designated hitter and batting fifth Thursday for Johnson City in the rookie level Appalachian League.
Knizner, a seventh round pick of the Cardinals, reached base three times in five plate appearances, including two the hard way. In addition to drawing a walk, Knizner was hit by a pitch twice. He's still looking for his first hit as a professional.
Knizner, an ACC academic honor roll athlete in all three of his seasons as an engineering major at State, is listed as a catcher on the Johnson City roster. He began his career as a capable third baseman for the Pack before converting to catcher, where he threw out a solid percentage of would-be base stealers (32.2%) but struggled with balls in the dirt. His offense dipped notably perhaps due to the rigors of playing behind the plate. He posted an .823 OPS as a freshman at the hot corner, .786 OPS as a sophomore after the conversion, and .747 OPS as a junior.
Regardless of what he does with the bat, Knizner could move quickly in the Cards' system if he can improve his dirt blocking skills and show enough versatility to handle both catcher and third base.