Backup Catcher Race Down to Two?

Sports - December 09, 2007

Interesting notes from both Adam McCalvy and Tom Haudricourt today as they wait for the rain to quit in Arizona, specifically on the backup catcher situation.  There are still quite a few catchers left in camp, but if you go by Ken Macha’s comments, it appears he’s narrowed the field down to two — George Kottaras and Matt Treanor.

Both reporters have Macha saying that his final decision will come after he sees what kind of catcher Gregg Zaun is this spring.  If Zaun shows himself to be more of an offensive catcher, he’ll opt for the defense-oriented Treanor.  If Zaun seems like a safe bet behind the dish, he’ll pick the slugging tendencies of Kottaras.

This sounds reasonable enough, and I think a lot of us thought the decision would come down to something similar.  The only thing I have a problem with is Macha seemingly not knowing what kind of player Zaun is.  It’s not like he’s played in 15 big league seasons for 8 teams or anything.

By now, we have a pretty good idea of what kind of player Zaun has been in the past, even if we haven’t had much of a chance to see him in a Brewers uniform.  Chances are he’s not much different than the guy who hit a combined .246/.342/.397 the past few years.  He’s Jason Kendall with power offensively, and passable defensively.  Personally, I’d rather see Kottaras take the job, because he’s younger and has shown more potential upside — something the Brewers should hang onto, even if they feel good about the futures of Angel Salome and Jonathan Lucroy.

On the subject of Salome and Lucroy, if neither breaks camp with the big league club, it could lead to an interesting situation in the minors.  Salome has been in the system longer and has long been considered the team’s catcher of the future, but Lucroy has propelled himself past Salome in most prospect rankings, thanks to his comparable bat and superior defensive ability.  Both should probably be starters at the AAA level, but obviously there’s only so many starts available in Nashville.

So, do you give Salome another chance as the Sounds’ starting catcher after a disappointing 2009?  Or do you let Lucroy progress to the starting role in Nashville after a very good 2009 in Huntsville?  Do you keep both on the same roster while trying to split playing time, or do you return one to AA where neither has anything left to prove?

It’s a question that’s been asked to every Brewers beat reporter out there, and so far we’ve gotten the same response from everyone — the team honestly doesn’t have a clue at this point, and will cross that bridge when they get to it.  Well, that bridge is about 3.5 weeks away, and it’s coming up in a hurry.  Both deserve (and probably need) the starting job in AAA, but only one can have it.  I don’t have any good solutions to offer, either, but I do know that the worst thing the team could do is have them both in Nashville and juggle their playing time.  It’s impossible to get into a groove that way, and it makes the learning process more complicated than it should be.

We saw what happened last year when the team didn’t know how to handle Mat Gamel.  Hopefully the team doesn’t make the same mistake two years in a row.

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