JUAN CENTENO (C)
Profile: The Brewers nightmare start to the 2015 season continued on Monday night when Jonathan Lucroy landed on the disabled list with a broken toe. The injury to Lucroy opened up a roster spot for the 25-year-old Centeno who was claimed off waivers from the New York Mets last October after spending eight seasons in the Mets organization.
Originally drafted out of high school in Arecibo, Puerto Rico by New York in the 32nd round of the 2007 draft, Centeno spent his first two seasons playing for the Mets Gulf Coast League affiliate in Florida. He appeared in 32 games for New York’s rookie league affiliate in Brooklyn in 2009, and saw action at three different levels in 2010.
Centeno spent 2011 at High-A St. Lucie where he appeared in 52 games, batting .318 with a home run and 22 runs scored. The Mets sent Centeno to the Arizona Fall League following the 2011 season. There he hit .234 in 14 games with the Peoria Javelinas. He advanced to Double-A Binghamton in 2012 where he hit .285 in 79 games. He spent the majority of the 2013 season at Triple-A Las Vegas, batting .305 with 28 runs batted in before making his Major League debut with the Mets in September.
Centeno split the 2014 season between Binghamton and Las Vegas, hitting a combined .289 while also spending a couple of weeks with the Mets in May and receiving a September call-up for the second straight season. The Brewers claimed Centeno off waivers from the Mets last October, adding him to their 40-man roster. He appeared in 16 Cactus League games for Milwaukee this spring, batting .333, collecting 18 hits and a home run.
Strengths: Centeno is a defense-first catcher who’s arm is strong and extremely accurate. He’s solid fundamentally and has a quick release helping to keep runners at bay. He has thrown out opposing base stealers at a 40% clip throughout his minor league career with his best season coming in 2013 when he gunned down a whopping 56% of base runners (34 of 61). He receives well behind the plate and shows good leadership qualities, working well with his pitchers. Offensively, Centeno has hit for a solid average through much of his career, especially for a catcher, posting a .276 average through nine minor league seasons.
Weaknesses: Despite hitting for a good average, Centeno has very little power, posting a slugging percentage just several points higher than his on base percentage. He’s managed just three career home runs in nearly 1300 at bats and doesn’t draw many walks either. While his defense is well above average he does struggle at times with pitches in the dirt, an area he’ll need to shore up to land a permanent role in the big leagues.
Future: Centeno will take over as the Brewers backup catcher for the next month or so while Lucroy heals and Martin Maldonado takes on the role of everyday catcher. With big league experience, solid defense and a left-handed bat, Centeno should be a good bench option for the Brewers until Lucroy returns. His big league future likely lies as a backup catcher and this will be a good audition for him. Despite being in his ninth professional season, Centeno won’t turn 26 until November and could be in line to inherit the backup job full-time if Maldonado departs when his contract is up following the 2016 season.