By Nathan Petrashek
Editor’s note: This is Part 1 in Cream City Cable’s position preview series.
The 2014 Brewers will once again feature a stable duo of catchers in Jonathan Lucroy and Martin Maldonado. Although Lucroy is the primary backstop, Maldonado received additional playing opportunities in 2013 as manager Ron Roenicke used Lucroy at first base for 14 games. That probably won’t continue in 2014 as the Brewers have a couple potentially viable options at first this season.
By far, Lucroy’s highest value lies behind the dish. Lucroy is offensively gifted as a catcher, but his numbers look much more average transposed to first base. With a developing pop and improved plate discipline, Lucroy has turned into one of the premier catchers in baseball. And that’s not even to mention his elite pitch-framing abilities. He’s only 27, too, and just entering his prime years.
For whatever reason, Lucroy remains fairly under the radar. He has never been named to an All-Star team, although he was arguably on his way in 2012 until a freak accident sidelined him until the second half. He certainly does not have Buster Posey’s reputation as an offensive juggernaut or the face of the franchise. Lucroy is more the type to keep his head down and get to work, and that’s probably why his popularity is sky-high in blue-collar Wisconsin.
Once again in 2013, though, the one knock on Lucroy remains his arm. Runners know it, as they attempted 80 steals on him in 2013; he threw out just over 20%, one of the worst percentages among qualified catchers.
580 pa, 59 r, 18 hr, 82 rbi, 9 sb, 7.9 bb%, 11.9 k%, .280/.340/.455, 118 wRC+
2014 offensive projections
Steamer: 492 pa, 53 r, 14 hr, 57 rbi, 5 sb, 7.3 bb%, 13.5 k%, .270/.328/.425, 107 wRC+
ZiPS: 506 pa, 53 r, 15 hr, 75 rbi, 7 sb, 7.1 bb%, 14.4 k%, .276/.331/.437, 111 wRC+
Signed to a 5-year, $11MM deal through 2016. Club option for 2017 at $5.25MM. Will make $2MM in 2014.
Maldonado is a fine to very good defensive catcher, which is his one saving grace in the backup position. After batting a surprising .266/.321/.408 in 2012 and amassing 1.4 WAR, Maldonado regressed badly in 2013. Hitting just .169/.236/.284, Maldonado shows none of the on-base skills or pop we glimpsed in 2012. Maldonado spent 73 innings at first base last year, where he generally looked awful. Indeed, Maldonado’s primary purpose on the 2014 roster may be to catch Wily Peralta, with whom he was paired in the minors and in parts of the last two major league season. That’s a dubious purpose, though; it remains an open question whether the wild Peralta might not benefit more from Lucroy’s exceptional pitch-framing.
2014 offensive projections
Steamer: 394 pa, 35 r, 10 hr, 38 rbi, 3 sb, 6.7 bb%, 23.3 k%, .222/.282/.352, 74 wRC+
ZiPS: 328 pa, 28 r, 8 hr, 42 rbi, 1 sb, 6.1 bb%, 26.2 k%, .224/.285/.353, 75 wRC+
Pre-arbitration 1-year contract; arbitration eligible in 2015.