From what the Milwaukee Brewers have seen out of Jonathan Lucroy in the past three years, it’s obvious he’s going to break out soon. This isn’t to say what Lucroy has put forth so far has been under-performing, but we’re all anxious to see when that huge year busts its way through the door.
Could 2013 be that year?
What exactly defines a breakout season? It’s one in which we see a player finally establish himself where he’ll be for the rest of his career or at least show us that he has the potential to be great. In 2012, we saw what we thought to be a breakout season for Lucroy, but unfortunately a trip to the disabled list only saw him play in 96 games. Despite his time on the DL, Lucroy still had a menacing .320/.368/.513 slash line with 58 RBIs, 12 homers and scored 46 runs. What’s even more incredible is he had an ISO (isolated power) rating of .193. A majority of fans believed Lucroy was also snubbed a spot in the 2012 All-Star Game.
Offensively for 2013, projectionist Bill James has Lucroy penciled in as a .287/.346/.442 batter with 14 homers, 70 RBIs and scoring 58 runs all in 133 games played. That’s actually the first step, if not knocking on the door to a breakout season. Milwaukee has a potent line-up already with the likes of Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez, Corey Hart when he comes back, Rickie Weeks‘ power, deadly contact from Norichika Aoki, the rise of Carlos Gomez and possibly Jean Segura. Even behind Lucroy, back-up catcher Martin Maldonado showed us in 2012 that he has a pretty decent bat as well.
Taking Lucroy’s offense into account for his career, he’s a .279/.326/.412 hitter with 28 homers, 143 RBIs, 112 runs scored and has even stolen 10 bases. Pretty solid numbers for a guy heading into his fourth MLB season as a catcher. He’s become a solid force in the line-up and if he can fulfill James’ predictions or better, we’ll definitely see Lucroy as an All-Star in July. He’s not only someone who will gradually evolve into a power hitter, but he’ll be a contact hitting catcher, which is rare.
For Lucroy, his bat isn’t the whole story as he does have a valuable glove behind the plate. A career .992 fielder, Lucroy has also thrown out 36% of the runners who have attempted to steal on him. He’s also allowed less wild pitches since 2011 (62 to 27), but that’s also in the difference of 326.1 innings (1043.2 to 717.1). Regardless, Lucroy has been solid behind the plate and the fact that he saved four runs last year as compared to 2011′s -5 is something quite spectacular.
Lucroy has been making quite a serious case to be a top catcher in the coming years. I don’t necessarily buy into fantasy baseball projections or whatnot, but a lot of analysts have Lucroy pegged as a potential sleeper for most leagues. Does that help build his case for a breakout season this year? Possibly so, but fantasy projections aren’t something I’d put a lot of stock into.
The Brewers have seen three great years out of their 26-year-old catcher and I’d expect there will be many more years to come as 2013 looks to be another fulfilling season. Lucroy is establishing himself as one of the better young catchers in the game and where better to do it than in Milwaukee.
Stats courtesy of FanGraphs.