The Brewers have enjoyed a rather formidable one-two punch at the catching position over the past several seasons with Jonathan Lucroy and Martin Maldonado handling most of the duties, but that could soon be changing as it appears that Lucroy’s time with Milwaukee is limited.
The 29-year-old Lucroy was a National League All-Star in 2014, a season that saw him hit .301 with 13 home runs and a league-leading 53 doubles. His offensive production fell off some last season as he missed time due to injury, but he remains one of the top catchers in baseball and should fetch a nice return if/when the Brewers decide to trade him.
Maldonado is known more for his defense, having gunned down 34% of potential base stealers over the course of his five seasons in the big leagues. In 79 games last year, he hit just .210/.282/.293 but he remains the Brewers top backup to Lucroy heading into 2016.
The Brewers brought in more catching depth at the higher levels of the minor leagues this past offseason, adding 25-year-old Puerto Rican Rene Garcia, 26-year-oldJosmil Pinto and 28-year-old Manny Pina, both from Venezuela.
The top catching prospect in Milwaukee’s organization is Jacob Nottingham, who was acquired in February along with pitcher Bubba Derby in exchange for outfielder Khris Davis. Known for his big-time power bat, Nottingham put together an outstanding offensive campaign in 2015, hitting .316/.372/.505 with 33 doubles and 17 home runs. The 20-year-old slugger could open the 2016 season with the Brewers Double-A affiliate in Biloxi.
In 90 games at Double-A Biloxi last season, Adam Weisenburger hit .231 and cut down an impressive 43% of opposing runners trying to steal against him. He should have the chance to move up to Triple-A Colorado Springs, but due to a numbers game he could also wind up back at Biloxi again to serve as a mentor to the newly acquired Nottingham.
Two other veteran options to join the Shuckers catching corpse are 26-year-old Parker Berberet and 27-year-old Rafael Neda. Berberet saw action with Biloxi last season while Neda spent the year at High-A Brevard County.
If Neda moves up to Biloxi, Dustin Houle and Carlos Leal would be the two leading candidates to take over the catching duties at Brevard. Houle finished out last season with the Manatees after returning from injury, while Leal enjoyed a breakout season at Wisconsin, hitting .309 in 76 Midwest League games with the Timber Rattlers.
Some of the Brewers other backstop prospects at the lower levels of the minor leagues include Greg McCall, Charles Galiano, Mitch Ghelfi, Milan Post, Johel Atencio, and Bismar Nunez with Atencio being the most intriguing of the lot.
OVERALL: The long-term outlook at the catching position appears a little bit brighter for Milwaukee after the addition of Nottingham, while making it more-and-more likely that Lucroy will be dealt at some point this season. Most of the catchers in the Brewers system are better defenders than hitters, but players like Nottingham and Leal provide some decent offensive firewpower as well.