Brewers have two starter-quality catchers

This is the third part in a five-part series previewing the Milwaukee Brewers by position heading into spring training, which starts Tuesday with pitchers and catchers reporting.
Today: Catchers

Monday: Infielders

Tuesday: Outfielders
ON THE ROSTER (alphabetical order): Jonathan Lucroy (.320, 12 HR, 58 RBI, 4 SB), Martin Maldonado (.266, 8 HR, 30 RBI, 1 SB)

OFFSEASON CHANGES: The Brewers did nothing to their catching situation because there was no work to be done. Jonathan Lucroy and Martin Maldonado return to give Milwaukee one of the best catching tandems in all of baseball. General manager Doug Melvin added minor league free agent Blake Lalli to serve as a bit of an insurance policy, but he’ll likely spend most of the season in Triple-A. Teams were interested in trading for Maldonado, but Melvin resisted the temptation to flip a valuable asset.

STARTER SPOTLIGHT: There’s little question Lucroy will  be the starting catcher, but manager Ron Roenicke’s challenge will lie in finding playing time for Maldonado. A defensive ace behind the plate, Maldonado likely overachieved in the batter’s box when he came up from Triple-A but is a stopper against base stealers. If he had played in enough games to qualify, Maldonado would have been sixth in baseball, throwing out 32 percent of attempted base stealers. It’s not as if Lucroy can’t play defense or Maldonado won’t provide quality at-bats at the plate, but both excel in one area. The Brewers can’t afford to have Lucroy’s bat out of the lineup too often, so finding time for Maldonado could be difficult. Maldonado – who was hitting .198 in Triple-A – hit .266 and showed some pop while filling in when Lucroy was injured, but fewer at-bats will make repeating those offensive numbers difficult. This is a good problem to have, especially since the Brewers have long struggled to find catchers the caliber of the two currently on their roster.

SPRING TRAINING QUESTION: Who is the third or fourth catcher? This is actually a legitimate concern to have. Because of the demands of the position, most teams use three catchers at minimum during the course of the season. The Brewers don’t even know themselves who would be the favorite to be called upon if an injury occurs, but they will have plenty of time to figure that out. Both Lucroy and Maldonado will be away from the team participating in the World Baseball Classic, and the other five catchers in big league camp will get their chance to make an impression. Of the five, only Lalli has played in the majors and he has just six big league games under his belt. It’s rare to find a team with a quality established option waiting in the minor leagues simply because he’d be in the big leagues somewhere given the lack of quality catching. The Brewers had the rare situation of having a young catcher ready in Triple-A last season, and they don’t have that depth this year.

BREWERS BENCH COACH JERRY NARRON SAYS: “We’re very fortunate to have two guys who both could be everyday catchers. Lucroy last year was on track to make the All-Star team if he hadn’t got hurt, and Maldy did a great job when he got here. We’ve got behind the plate covered real well.”

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