As we are all enduring the social isolation procedures due to the COVID 19 virus, we can dream of emerald green outfields and the smell of freshly oiled leather, which will hopefully be in our near future. The Brewers spent nearly three weeks in spring training before being sent home for safety precautions, and the 2020 season remains on hiatus. When the boys of summer do return, and they will, one of the pressing questions yet to be answered is who will man the home plate for the Brewers?
Free-agent Yasmani Grandal spent one season with the Brewers as the starting catcher and made the most of it. He hit .246, slightly above his career average, and set career highs in home runs (28) and RBIs (77). Grandal also showed much-improved discipline with his bat, walking 109 times which was significantly more than this career average. Because of this production, Grandal earned his second all-star appearance. Yet, his time in Milwaukee was short. Grandal signed as a free agent with the Chicago White Sox in the offseason.
Returning for his fifth season in Milwaukee is perennial backup catcher Manny Pina. Pina is coming off a subpar hitting year, with a disappointing .228 average in only 76 at-bats. This despite better success against left-handed pitching. However, Pina’s defense remains above average, and he handles the Brewer’s pitchers well. Despite this, Pina again looks to fill a backup role for Milwaukee. He will benefit from the possibility of increased at-bats off the bench against lefties, and as a defensive replacement.
Catcher Jacob Nottingham projects to be the odd man out once the 2020 season is underway. In spite of receiving praise from manager Craig Counsell during the spring training, Nottingham will most likely start the season in the minors, barring any unforeseen injuries. However, he has shown excellent athleticism behind the plate and boasts of an above-average arm. With an improvement in his game-calling and defense, Nottingham has the opportunity to be the Brewer’s catcher of the future.
The opening day starting catcher projects to be Omar Narvaez, who was traded to Milwaukee from Seattle in the offseason. Coming off a career year with the Mariners, Narvaez hit .278, second for all starting catchers in 2019. He also tallied 22 home runs and 55 RBIs, both career highs. Narvaez brings a left-handed bat to the starting lineup, yet his defense remains average at best, and he has yet to show significant aptitude with the Brewer’s pitchers. He also struggled at the plate in the limited spring training action, hitting a woeful .143 in 21 at-bats. Narvaez looks to return to form in the regular season with Pina waiting in the wings, should he falter.
While Grandal was a driving force behind the Brewer’s offense in 2019, the team looks to replace his production primarily with Narvaez who should benefit from playing in Milwaukee. The defense behind the plate remains collectively average to slightly above and it is yet unknown how Narvaez will mesh with the Brewer’s pitchers. While not one of the primary strengths of the team, the team has talent at the position of catcher regardless of whoever will man the plate for the Brewers in 2020.
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