> Earlier today, I was reading an article on MLB Trade Rumors. It talked about what general managers look for in drafts, such as five-tool players, front-of-the-line ace pitchers, and so on. But, there was one specific type of player in that article that caught my eye- a type of player I didn’t even know existed, and it may very well not even exist.
A five-tool catcher. The baseball terms “five-tool” and “catcher” typically contradict each other, hence the reason a five-tool catcher is so rare and unheard of. If you don’t already know, the five tools in baseball are hitting for average, hitting for power, speed, a good arm, and good defense. The most common type of player to wield the five tools is an outfielder. And, not coincidentally, the two top finishers for the NL MVP were outfielders- Ryan Braun and Matt Kemp– and you could make the argument that both are five-tool players, despite their young ages.
The best that catchers can usually be are four-tool players, as the top catchers in baseball are typically good hitters and good defenders (blocking pitches and throwing out runners). But, that one tool they almost always lack is speed. That’s kind of a given, though, considering they have to sit crouched in one position behind the plate for over 1,000 innings per year.
There are plenty of good catchers out there. Brian McCann (Braves) has made the All-Star Team every year since 2006, and has also hit 20 or more home runs every since as well (except 2007). But, his defense is below average for a catcher, and then there’s the speed as well. Yadier Molina (Cardinals) has always been arguably the best defensive catcher in baseball, throwing out nearly 50% of runners that have tried stealing against him in his career. Molina also broke out at the plate this year, hitting .293. But, he’s painfully slow, even for a catcher. Buster Posey (Giants), after winning the 2010 Rookie of the Year Award in the NL, promptly got injured in 2011, so we have yet to see what he’s truly capable of. Anyway, there’s more catchers to list, but I’m not going to rattle on forever about every catcher in the Majors.
While all of the guys I just listed are good, All-Star caliber catchers, they can’t be considered true five-tool players, simply because of that lack of speed. Hence, I don’t think a five-tool catcher can exist.
> When that topic on MLBTR caught my eye, I also started thinking about the Brewers’ young catcher, Jonathan Lucroy. He certainly isn’t a five-tool catcher either, because, like all catchers, he doesn’t have speed. And his offense could use a little work.
But, offensively, I think he’s headed in the right direction. After coming up from Double-A in May of 2010 to replace the injured Gregg Zaun, Lucroy was immediately thrown into the fire of being a starting catcher at the Major League level. He finished 2010 hitting .253 with four home runs and 26 RBIs. Then, in 2011, his first full season in the Majors (although he missed a few weeks in April with a broken finger), he hit .265 with 12 homers and 59 RBIs, and demonstrated some power. This makes me think that, in time, Lucroy can be a power threat. I also think he’ll be able to be a near-.300 hitter at some point, but he needs to become less streaky. But doesn’t the entire Brewers’ offense need to become less streaky (save Braun)?
Lucroy also finally developed into a great defensive catcher in the second half of 2011. He still has his occasional embarrassing moment where he doesn’t know where the ball bounced, but he’s become accustomed to blocking balls in the dirt, probably thanks to Zack Greinke‘s slider. And it felt like Lucroy was throwing out more runners than ever in the second half as well.
Anyway, my point here is that I hope the Brewers hang onto Lucroy for awhile. He isn’t arbitration-eligible for the first time until 2014, and not a free agent until 2017, so I guess they’ll kind of be forced to, but hopefully the keep him beyond that. And, I’d like to see Martin Maldonado get a chance next year as a backup catcher. George Kottaras doesn’t even appear to be a catcher, he’s so bad defensively…
> And that’s all I’ve got for now. I might post Hot Stove news later. That is, if anything happens… Anyhow, thanks for reading.