Molina has a big league pedigree with two older brothers in the majors- Bengie (a gold glove winner) and Jose. Growing up around baseball has undoubtedly helped Molina's progress and he has wasted no time getting to the big leagues. At age 22 Molina was the youngest catcher to start for a National League team on opening day since Jason Kendall for the Pittsburg Pirates in 1996.
Offensively, Molina hit .267 in limited action last season and might be a slight upgrade from Matheny who is a .238 career hitter. Defensively no one in baseball compares to the way that Matheny blocks balls and helps with the pitching staff. The Cardinals have already experienced some difficulties with the younger Molina's game calling abilities. In Wednesdays loss to the Houston Astros Dave Duncan was not particularly pleased with Molina's game calling, specifically the eighth inning changeup that Mike Lamb hit for a go ahead double. However, not all the blame can be placed on Molina as pitchers must execute the pitches that are called and Duncan and TLR can always call pitches from the dugout if they feel it is necessary.
Molina's best talent on defense might be his ability to throw out potential base stealers. In 2004 Molina threw out 47% of would be base stealers compared to Matheny's 30% rate. It is yet to be determined how Molina will hold up over the course of a full season but whenever he needs a day off the Cards have a very capable backup in veteran catcher Einar Diaz.
Overall Molina has the talent, knowledge, and the pedigree to be a force for the Cardinals behind the plate for years to come.