Milwaukee Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy is still at least a few weeks away from returning to the active roster as he recovers from his broken hand. When he does return, the Brewers will have to make a decision. Assuming they don't carry three catchers, the club will have to decide whether to keep George Kottaras or Martin Maldonado as the number two catcher behind Lucroy.
When Maldonado was called up from Triple A Nashville at the end of May, I assumed he'd be sent back down after Lucroy returned. After all, the Brewers did have a veteran backup catcher in Kottaras, and Maldonado was viewed as a good defensive catcher but not much of a hitter with a .236 lifetime average in the minors, and .198 this year in 35 games at Nashville.
However, now that Maldonado has been playing for the Brewers for nearly a month, I think general manager Doug Melvin and manager Ron Roenicke should give serious consideration to retaining Maldonado after Lucroy returns. Maldonado's defense has been very good, and he has a quick release on his throws to second base. He's thrown out 228 of 549 (42%) base runners attempting to steal in his minor league career and three of nine (33%) with the Brewers since being called up. The National League average is 28%. Kottaras has thrown out just 17% of those attempting to steal against him (21 caught stealing out of 125) in his big league career.
Maldonado was hitting .246 in 22 games through June 22nd. That's not a high average, but it's been a productive .246, with five homers and 15 RBIs in those 22 games. While he had gotten off to a slow start at Nashville this season, Maldonado did hit .287 with 11 homers and 59 RBIs last year in 103 minor league games at Nashville and Double A Huntsville. He's not the easy out that he was earlier in his career. Kottaras got off to a great start with the bat in 2012, and was hitting .318 with three homers and nine RBIs on April 28th. Since then he's cooled down considerably to .235. He hasn't hit a home run since April 13th, and he has driven in just one run since April 28th.
Under normal circumstances, Kottaras catches for Randy Wolf, with Lucroy catching for the other four starters in the rotation. Wolf has a $10 million club option for 2013, and it's unlikely he'll return. Kottaras is also arbitration eligible in 2013, but I don't see the Brewers offering arbitration to him. All signs point to Maldonado being the backup catcher next season. The question is if the Brewers want to move that timetable up and try to trade Kottaras or send him down to Nashville instead of Maldonado when Lucroy returns.
A Featured Contributor in Sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network, Mark Hudziak has been a fan of the Brewers since they moved to Milwaukee in 1970.
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