The Milwaukee Brewers just signed free agent catcher Yasmani Grandal to a one year deal. He will join Manny Pina and Erik Kratz as options behind the plate in 2019. But where does this leave young prospect Jacob Nottingham moving forward?
Jacob Nottingham was brought up to the big leagues early in the 2018 season, but didn’t see much playing time due to the acquisition of Erik Kratz and a DL stint. This resulted in most of his playing time coming in Triple-A Colorado Springs.
Nottingham quickly fell to the Milwaukee Brewers third option at catcher and it would appear that will be the best case scenario for him heading into 2019.
Although he is still just 23-years-old, at this point Nottingham hasn’t shown much proof that he can be a consistent option at catcher for the Milwaukee Brewers. Evidenced by the decision to bring back the 39-year-old journeyman Kratz.
Considered by many as the future of the Milwaukee Brewers catching position, this upcoming season which will largely be spent in Triple-A barring injuries, is going to be a huge one for Nottingham if he hopes to contribute in the future.
How did Nottingham perform in 2018?
While being a part of the 40-man roster in 2018, Nottingham appeared in nine games for the Milwaukee Brewers. In that time he posted a slash line of .200/.333/.250 and an OPS of .583 over 24 plate appearances.
At the Triple-A level we have a much larger sample size from Nottingham. Last season he appeared in 50 games and recorded a slash line of .281/.347/.528, as expected far better than his time in Milwaukee.
Although his numbers look better in Triple-A, we have to take into account that home games are played in Colorado Springs where offensive numbers tend to be inflated and Nottingham’s .281 batting average still ranked ninth on the team among those with at least 80 at-bats.
How has Nottingham struggled at the plate?
Other than his time in Single-A, Nottingham has struggled with consistency at the plate. He spent 2016 and 2017 in Double-A Biloxi where he posted slash lines of .234/.295/.347 and .209/.326/.369.
Nottingham can wield a big bat but he struggles to get on base via the walk and strikes out quite a bit. The last three seasons at the minor league level, Nottingham has struck out 30.2%, 22.6% and 30.1% of the time.
With just 196 plate appearances at the Triple-A level, it is clear that he needs more time before there’s the possibility that he can play full-time in Milwaukee.
How is Nottingham defensively?
Early on in his career there was concern that Nottingham would have to be moved to first base because of his issues defensively.
However over the years he has been able to improve his blocking of wild pitches and has become solid at framing pitches. Overall Nottingham will never blow anyone away with his defense, but he will give a team a decent option behind the plate.
As long as the Milwaukee Brewers find themselves in the midst of their championship window, we may not see Nottingham at the big league level unless he is able to improve on offense.
At some point, we hope that Nottingham will get a shot in Milwaukee to see if he can perform at that level. But with a proven Manny Pina, free agent options like a Yasmani Grandal, and what we have seen out of Nottingham offensively thus far, it is going to be difficult.