The Milwaukee Brewers catching lab is at it again with William Contreras
The Milwaukee Brewers are widely lauded for the work of their pitching lab, developing pitchers to elite levels and pitchers adding more pitches to their arsenals. However, another aspect that the Milwaukee Brewers have done a fantastic job at over the past five years is turning average or below average defensive catchers, into elite defensive backstops. William Contreras is the latest to wow Major League Baseball with his rapid defensive improvement from his previous team to coming to the Milwaukee Brewers.
The trade to acquire William Contrerars when originally completed was an A grade trade, however with Contreras making noticable defensive strides, the grade may be an A+ on acquiring him.
Examples of the Milwaukee Brewers developing defensive catchers
Going all the way back to 2018 to look at players like Manny Pina, Victor Caratini and Yasmani Grandal, the trend begins.
Yasmani Grandal was a great defensive catcher in 2018 with the Los Angeles Dodgers, ranking 10th in framing runs, posting a strike frame rate of 50.7 percent, blocking above average of +6 and caught 35 percent of steal attempts. In 2019, Grandal put up very similar numbers, 13 framing runs, 51 percent framing strike rate, +5 blocking above average and 31 percent caught stealing rate. In 2018 with the Dodgers, Grandal was the second best pitch framer in baseball, in 2019 with the Brewers he was number three. Grandal on his own doesn't suggest the Brewers did anything to dramatically improve defensive catchers, but it begins to set a precedent.
In 2018, Manny Pina, then a member of the Milwaukee Brewers, was the 27th ranked catcher in baseball in pitch framing and Victor Caratini, then a Chicago Cub, was 29th. In 2019, Pina jumped up to number 13, essentially a 100 percent improvement jumping up 14 spots. Caratini improved slightly up to 21st.
Victor Caratini in 2020, his final season with the Chicago Cubs, had a solid season in the Covid shortened year, finishing as the number seven pitch framing catcher, potentially foreshadowing some potential behind the plate. In 2021, Victor Caratini signed with the San Diego Padres and was the number 50 pitch framer, potentially squashing the view the Padres had of Caratini and prompting his trade to the Brewers. In 2022 Caratini made a large jump from number 50 back up to number 26. 26th isn't a great spot to be and necessitated the Milwaukee Brewers to be on the look out for catcher help but it was a significant jump for Caratini.
2019 was Omar Narvaez's final season with the Seattle Mariners before joining the Milwaukee Brewers in 2020. Back in 2019 with Seattle, Narvaez was the 56th ranked pitch framing catcher. One season with Milwaukee and he was number one! Not only was Narvaez the number one pitch framer in 2020, but he was number one again in 2021! Narvaez dealt with some injuries last summer but still finished 2022 as the number seven pitch framer in all of baseball.