May 22, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Milwaukee Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy (20) hits a RBI single against the Atlanta Braves in the third inning at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
After a brief hiatus, I am truly excited to return and continue the system overview series I started in April looking today at the catcher position. I am even more excited since this article includes my favorite Brewer, Jonathan Lucroy!
As you look at the Brewers system from top to bottom, many will point to the Brewers pitching rotations or even the outfield depth as they pick out the highlights “down on the farm” while for me the catcher position is one that I think gets overlooked. Depth of a system starts at the top and the Milwaukee Brewers boast not only a potential All-Star in Jonathan Lucroy but a plus defender who has improved at the plate in 2014 in Martin Maldonado backing him up. This tandem forms arguably the best duo in baseball, a duo that manager Ron Roenicke has put on the field together more in the past week or so. Now I know that depth in a system continue with the prospects and while many people consider “prospects” as currency wins and losses on the big league level matter more than anything, need proof look at the Chicago Cubs. I am here to show you with the quality at the major league level and the prospects “down on the farm” the Brewers have a great outlook at the position.
Triple A Nashville is not the most glowing recommendation for what I described earlier as the roster is littered with veteran retreads, led by Robinzon Diaz. Diaz, whose largest claim to fame is being the player to be named later in the Jose Bautista trade to Toronto, enters the day hitting .227 with three home runs and 10 RBI’s. The 30-year-old though is a good defender and with the Brewers pitching rotation in Nashville featuring some future major leaguers his presence behind the plate has been critical. The Sounds lead the Pacific Coast League with a 3.50 staff ERA going into today’s game and both Diaz and backup Matt Pagnozzi have been a big part of that.
Huntsville has been a treat for any Brewers fan to follow this year as the Stars are 37-17 and lead the Southern League’s North Division. Behind the plate the Stars have balanced the duties between Adam Weisenburger and Shawn Zarraga. Zarraga has been a standout for the Stars at the plate leading all hitters with a .358 batting average while Weisenburger is hitting .268 on the year. While both may only profile as backups in the big leagues they have many qualities on the stat line that fans should keep in mind. Both Zarraga and Weisenburger have more walks than strikeouts as hitters and defensively Weisenburger has thrown out 44% of runners with Zarraga nabbing 47%. While both players are 25-years old and have never played higher than Double A, keep your eye on where they end up following the season as both seem destined for Nashville in 2015.
Once you make your way to Single A it begins to get intersting at the position as the Advanced A club the Brevard County Manatees boast Cameron Garfield and the Low A club the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers feature former first-round pick Clint Coulter.
Garfield, a 23-year old former second-round pick in 2009 hits right in the middle of the order in Viera and while his stats are not great in 2014, the spot in the lineup is significant considering the prospects that are also on the roster. The career .264 hitter has been known for his bat thus far and the Brewers hope that he builds on that reputatation in his second year with the Manatees. Garfield has been a slightly below average defender in his career but in 2014 he has thrown out 35% of all runners an increase from his 21% career average.
Coulter has bounced back from a very non-descript 2013 to become arguably the Brewers best hitting prospect in 2014. The 20-year-old leads all minor leaguers within the system in home runs (9), runs batted in (38) and slugging percentage (.524). Coulter has regained the momentum he had entering 2013 as could coontinue to move not only within the system but in the eyes of people nationally if he continues to grow behind the plate. While it is not guaranteed where he will end up defensively in the future his prowess at the plate leaves him in the immediate eyes of talent evaluators in the present.
The Brewers are positioned night in and night out with a potential All-Star behind the plate and currently in the three hole in the lineup. Jonathan Lucroy turns 28-years old in about a month, is signed thru the 2017 and is not only a fan favorite but one of the best at the position. This positions the Brewers to be very creative with the depth that they do have. You see it on nights like tonight when Maldonado catches and Lucroy moves over to first base. Still as we move forward, where will Coulter end up defensively? What about Lucroy if Maldonado continues to develop? All of these questions are coming from a position of strength because of the depth they have at the position and the fact they have legimate players at the major league level. It is going to very interesting to see where the prospects end up following the year.