May. 30, 2016
Brewers Catchers Preview
In the five part Brewers preview I am doing, catcher may just be the position Brewers' fans are most worried about in the short term. I don't think we Brewers' fans have wondered who the starting catcher would be since 2011, and ditto with the backup. After the trade of Jonathan Lucroy to Texas, followed by the offseason trade of Martin Maldonado to the Angels, the catchers will be different in Milwaukee for the 2017 season. An area of stability has now become an area of uncertainty, but hopefully that won't last too long. The Brewers have three main contenders for the starting catcher position, and they are also contending for the backup job as well.
ANDREW SUSAC: Susac has been trapped behind San Francisco Giants' all-league catcher Buster Posey from day one, and the Will Smith trade finally allowed him some room to breathe. He should be the favorite for the starter spot, as he has the most upside of the three contenders. That isn't saying much, but he should get his chance, as Manny Pina has bounced around baseball for years and Jett Bandy hasn't really been around long enough. Over Susac's three year career, he has a .235 average, 7 home runs and 35 RBI's in 238 at bats. Not terrible, but I'm thinking he needs more consistency, as his first season was his best, when he had the most chances.
JETT BANDY: The main piece of the Maldonado trade, Bandy gives the Brewers a cheaper option behind the plate with a lot more club control as well. He had the best season behind the plate last year of anybody, and started a good number of games for the Angels as well. He's young enough where the Brewers can justify putting him as the backup or starting him in the minors.
MANNY PINA: Pina had a great Triple-A season, and he came into last season as the Brewers third string catcher. I don't think that changes this year either, but if the Brewers value longevity with the ball club, the job is Pina's. He also knows the pitching staff better than Bandy and likely Susac as well, being on the team the longest. However, he is one of those numerous backup catchers throughout the MLB that has made it seem like they have been on every team.
NON-ROSTER INVITEES: Rene Garcia is a Triple-A catcher, and he will take on the role that Josmil Pinto had last season of being the main Triple-A guy and absolute emergency big league catcher. However, the most intriguing non-roster invitee is prospect Jacob Nottingham, who many in the Brewers organization are believing is the future starting catcher in Milwaukee. All of the other guys listed already aren't going to be standing in his way, especially if he continues to hit the way that he has in the minors. 2018 is about getting Nottingham up to speed on the big leagues, while 2017 is about finding his long-term backup.
2017 OPENING DAY CATCHERS: Andrew Susac & Manny Pina
Look, this position battle might be the most wide-open in all of the NL Central, and it all depends on their Spring Training performances. And remember, Spring Training is just as much about what we don't see (in private practices) as it is about the scrimmages with other professional teams. Jacob Nottingham has a really small chance of making the roster, but I'd expect a September call-up in his case. Susac is the guy with the most potential, and Pina has the most experience with the rotation, which is why I chose those two over Bandy. It really is a three-sided coin flip on who starts Opening Day, but my money is on Susac, since he doesn't have Buster Posey in his way anymore.