Les Stroud could learn a thing or two from Milwaukee's talented young backstop Jonathan Lucroy. Not only has he found success this year in the big leagues, but he has survived hitting in the virtual wasteland that has been the bottom of the Brewers order at times. Production has been scarce being surrounded by the likes of Mark Kotsay, Carlos Gomez, Yuni B, and a strewn field of other pinch hitters, pitchers, and wayward bats. But, through it all Lucroy has managed a very productive season, making the times the other hitters find water in the desert that more effective.
Starting with McGehee the bottom of the order has been trying to find it's way this year. Some bats like Casey (.237) and Yuni (.252) have had success in small doses, each contributing 121 RBIs to the Brewers game. Each have been efficient at times, but each have still gone on long slumps where it seems that each at bat is another out, or more. Mark Kotsay (.260) has been the marginal hitter we all knew he would be, and Carlos Gomez's .215 average isn't helping anybody out. The only bat that has had success around Lucroy is Nyjer Morgan, but now he has cemented a spot in the two hole, and Lucroy is once again left to tow the line.
Through all the roster tweaks, and player shuffles Lucroy has still managed a .278 average, and 56 RBIs, over 381 at bats in 2011. Much of his production is due to a very healthy line drive rate (24.4%) and a very luck driven swing with his BABIP sitting at an unholy .335. This is nothing new though. Lucroy has posted BABIPs and averages higher than he has this season in the minors while striking out less. The sharp rise in K% from 14.8% in his first big league season in 2010 to 21.5% this year may have everything to do with it being his first full season of work at starting catcher. He is handling a top level pitching staff, and is playing one of the most physically demanding positions in baseball. But, Lucroy may just be pressing at times because of the hitters around him, and the opportunities he has.
This should be the beginning of a long illustrious career for the Brewers catcher. With 11 home runs this season so far he could be a possible 15-20 guy next year. What he will have to work on is his eye and taking more walks, but that will come with maturity. Because Lucroy has always maintained a good batting average when given regular time he won't hurt the Crew there as long as his contact rates don't continue a downward trend. With steady rises in OBP, and maintaining an edge of power, Lucroy should continue to find success in Milwaukee. So, the next time you think we are stuck in the desert remember that Luke will lead us to water, even if we are far from home.