Starter: Gregg Zaun
Backup: George Kottaras
On the Farm: Angel Salome, Jonathan Lucroy
Catcher has been something of an offensive black hole for the Brewers. Since 2000, the Brewers have used such stars as Henry Blanco, Paul Bako, Eddie Perez, Chad Moeller, Damian Miller (pride of the Coulee Region!), Johnny Estrada, and Jason Kendall, none of whom have given any significant production as a Brewer. The future appears to be bright with Jon Lucroy and Angel Salome on the scene, but it will be up to Gregg Zaun to be the bridge to the better of those two players.
Zaun is not a star, and his role here in Milwaukee will be very similar to his role as placeholder for Matt Wieters in Baltimore, although I do expect Zaun to remain the starter for the entire season this year. Zaun’s hitting prowess is remarkably underrated. Zaun hasn’t had a sub-.340 OBP season since 2003, and he has enough power potential to be an average or even slightly better hitter – his 8 HRs and 17 2Bs in 2009 paved the way to his 104 wRC+, excellent for a catcher.
Zaun is a veteran who should be able to handle the Brewers pitching staff, although that’s something that’s nearly impossible to quantify. Strides have been made in attempting to quantify catcher defense, and the consensus appears to be that Zaun is an above average backstop, although certainly not a Yadier Molina-type defender.
Kottaras has shown some promise at the plate but has a poor defensive reputation, as far as I know. He hit pretty well in AAA as a 25 year old in 2008 but has struggled with strikeouts at the major league level. Don’t expect him to make any sort of huge impact with the 2010 Brewers.
Angel Salome’s prospect status has slipped a bit, as his .288/.338/.420 line at Nashville was certainly a step down from the .971 OPS he put up in AA. He also caught only just over 20% of steals, a far cry from what would be needed at the major league level. He probably won’t see much time in the majors and needs to have a good year at AAA in 2010.
To me, Jon Lucroy is the more exciting of the two prospects. He’s not as far along as Salome nor has he looked quite as good as a hitter, but he seems to have a much better shot of sticking at catcher. Lucroy threw out 34% of attempted steals in 2009 at Huntsville. He also has excellent on-base skills as his career minor league OBP of .377 (equal to his ‘09 AA OBP) is well above average. It will be interesting to see which of these catchers plays at which level, as I find it unlikely that either would start the season in any sort of backup role.
Overall, don’t expect any sort of all-star season or anything of that sort out of the catcher position in Milwaukee, but do expect solid production that is far from an automatic out with some solid defense. The
future is bright at the position and the present is nothing to sneeze at either.