Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers: #12 Martin Maldonado

Welcome back to the countdown!

We’re a dozen days away from the sights, sounds, and smells of baseball overtaking the sprawling Miller Park grounds.

What a day it shall be!

Unfortunately for today’s profile, Miller Park will likely not include him in its Opening Day festivities and therefore this preview won’t be as long as it otherwise would.

Despite being a member of the 40-man roster, he is currently listed as third on the catching depth chart and is therefore slated for a minor-league optioning to be the starting catcher with the Triple-A Nashville Sounds.

I’m talking about:

Martin Maldonado.

A champion this winter in the Puerto Rican League as a part of Los Indios de Mayaguez, Martin Maldonado is a 6’1″, 225 pound backstop who hails from Naguabo, Puerto Rico.

Every player (well, in the National League at least) plays both offense and defense in a baseball game. For a catcher, however, defense becomes much more intense of a discipline.

You’re involved in almost every single play and aware of everything happening on the field. The catcher is the only player in the game who sees everything happening on the field in front of him.

Some catchers are offensive-minded and only catch a game well-enough to get by. Some catchers are phenomenal receivers, and have a great “catch and throw” but can’t hit their way out of a paper bag.

Then every so often you get a catcher that seems like he’s going to be able to do both. Maldonado profiles as such a catcher.

Already deemed ready defensively by scouts and those who follow prospects much more closely than I do, Maldonado had a bit of an offensive breakthrough in 2011 in the minor leagues while catching for Nashville following a promotion from Double-A Huntsville.

The combined numbers for 2011 for Maldonado look like:

103 games, 342 at-bats, 47 runs, 98 hits, 18 doubles, 11 home runs, 59 RBI, 35 walks, 77 strikeouts resulting in a slash-line of .287/.373/.436 as a minor leaguer.

He was rewarded with a promotion to the Major Leagues as a September call-up.

His final season line was all buoyed by his Nashville-only numbers which saw him finish with a .321/.410/.537 slash line. His Spring Training this year hasn’t been tremendous, but it’s only 23 at-bats worth so I’m not worried in slightest.

The writing has been on the wall for Maldonado’s ticket for the minors this year since incumbent backup George Kottaras agreed to a one-year deal back in early December. Kottaras was a non-tender candidate (much like Casey McGehee who ended up getting traded when a one-year deal wasn’t reached) in large part because the front office knew that they had another catcher waiting in the wings who they were comfortable going with if Kottaras wouldn’t agree.

With another year of seasoning down on the farm for Maldonado on deck, it would not be a surprise at all if Kottaras was sent on his way before the next non-tender deadline this coming December.

Normally you don’t like to simply give up a commodity like catching without getting something in return, but Brewer Nation can rest easy if Maldonado is the reason that it happens in this case.

Remember those types of catchers we talked about before? Jonathan Lucroy leaned offense in the minors and has done an admirable job on his defensive skills since his unlikely promotion from Double-A to the majors after Gregg Zaun was lost for the season a couple of years back.

Kottaras is most definitely an offensive asset but is also a defensive liability. Yes he pairs up nicely with Randy Wolf, but that’s not enough of a reason to keep someone around when his replacement would do it even better.

Martin Maldonado is enough of an asset on both sides of the game that he might force his way into the lineup sooner rather than later.

Then again, this is Randy Wolf’s last guaranteed season in Milwaukee anyway, isn’t it.

You can follow Martin Maldonado on Twitter: @Machete1224

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