With the Brewers signing of Gregg Zaun and the departure of Jason Kendall, we know who the starting catcher will be in 2010. But when Mike Rivera was not tendered a contract before the deadline to do so, it left a big question mark as to who will be the backup catcher in 2010 and get around 60 starts behind the plate. The Brewers have three options going into spring training. Prospects Jonathan Lucroy and Angel Salome, or recently claimed off waivers from Boston George Kottaras.
Lucroy had a very nice season at AA Huntsville in 2009 and put up a good line of .267/.380/.418, 9 HR and 66 RBI's. On defense Lucroy threw out 40% of base stealer's and had a .991 fielding % with 7 errors. Lucroy had started 2009 as the Brewers #2 catching prospect behind Angel Salome, but after his strong season for Huntsville as well as a very good showing in the AFL (.310/.354/.483, 2 HR and 10 RBI's), Lucroy has jumped Salome in many fans minds as well as the Brewers organizations mind as the #1 catching prospect and more then likely should be the starter in 2011.
Salome regressed some in 2009 while playing at AAA Nashville after having a monster year in 2008 at AA Huntsville, but he also battled some injuries playing in only 82 games. His line was .286/.334/.413, 6 HR and 44 RBI's. On defense Salome threw out just 30% of base stealer's with a fielding % of .976 and 10 errors. The thought seemed to be that Salome was better on offense while Lucroy was better on defense, but it seems that Lucroy is catching up on offense and still the better defender and that is why he has jumped Salome.
George Kottaras was claimed off waivers early this offseason after playing 45 games for the Boston Red Sox in 2009. His line was .237/.308/.387, 1 HR and 10 RBI's. Defensively Kottaras threw out just 16% of base stealer's with a fielding % of .992 and 8 errors. He was used often as the catcher for knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. Kottaras like Gregg Zaun is a switch hitter at the plate.
So there you have the three candidates. Kottaras has something the other two don't, a good chunk of big league experience. But Lucroy and Salome have more talent and more future potential. It sounds as if it will be an open competition between the three and whoever performs best in spring may break camp with the job. As of right now I would like it to be either Lucroy or Kottaras. Lucroy could use a season as the backup learning the ropes behind Zaun before taking over in 2011 as the starter. If they don't go that route I would like to see Kottaras get it, Lucroy start at AAA and Salome traded. Stay tuned.