With Brewers all-star catcher Jonathon Lucroy out for the bulk of spring training, there are many questions facing the catching position for the Crew. Last week, Lucroy received treatment for a partially torn right hamstring and is to miss 4 to 6 weeks. While Lucroy feels confident he will be ready for the team’s season opener on April 6th. It remains to be seen just how ready Lucroy will be, given the short window of time between now and opening day.
This news was a negative blow to the Brewers as pitchers and catchers report to spring training today. However, just like the other 29 teams that have to deal with injuries, the Brewers will have to carry on. Injuries are not great, but an opportunity is now opened up for other Brewers players in camp to show what they can do. So behind Lucroy, what do the Brewers have in terms of backup catchers who are suddenly not quite backups?
The most apparent choice to get the bulk of the catching duties this spring is Martin Maldonado. The 28 year old catcher is viewed as a good defensive player, but is a .225 hitter in 200 major league games, so there is a major drop off offensively. Maldonado and Lucroy both have limited experience playing first base as well. Lucroy is expected to play first this season when regular Adam Lind gets a day off, and Lucroy really needed more innings at the position. This time missed might could be crucial in terms of Lucroy’s improvement at first base.
As for other catchers in camp, there is 3rd stringer turned 2nd stringer Juan Centeno. Like Maldonado, Centeno is also a career .225 hitter, but in only 14 games, covering the last two seasons for the New York Mets. With Lucroy being sidelined, Centeno will get some valuable experience getting familiar with the Brewers pitchers and might be the Brewers back up to start 2015. It will also be interesting to see if prized prospect Clint Coulter will get playing time as well. Coulter is very talented, but is a few years away from being a viable major league option behind the plate.
So with the Brewers sudden lack of depth behind home plate and at first base, there are some open doors for some players to show what they got at first as well. Matt Clark has hit 128 home runs in the minors and hit 25 homers in 2013 for the Chunichi Dragons in Japan. Clark showed something last September for the Brewers, hitting 3 home runs down the stretch and now has a shot to make the opening day roster. Jason Rogers is also in the mix with a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League.
In conclusion, Lucroy’s injury raises many questions and gets spring training off to an inauspicious start. The Brewers opening day lineup might not be what they thought it was going to be. For positives, Maldonado handles the pitching staff very well and Lucroy played through a similar injury last September, so I would expect him back by April 6th. Not all is lost Brewer fans, it technically is not spring yet and hope still springs eternal.