On a day when the Brewers signed a veteran left-handed relief pitcher to balance their bullpen, we take a look at someone who will likely catch some of his Spring Training work this year. He is a newcomer to the Brewers organization, claimed this winter off of waivers from the New York Mets…
Juan C. Centeno is 25 years old, Puerto Rican (from Arecibo), and the first minor league 40-man rostered catcher that the team has carried in a few years outside of September. As mentioned the Brewers were awarded the waiver claims from the Mets this off-season, which came on October 31.
Originally drafted in the 32nd round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft by the Mets, Centeno was a September call up for New York each of the last two seasons. His Major League debut came on September 18, 2013. He also had a stint with the parent club in May of 2014 when he made six starts over two weeks.
Never one to display any kind of power, in eight minor league seasons Centeno has combined for three (3) home runs. His career minor league slash line is .277/.329/.336 with only 178 strikeouts and just 93 walks in 1423 plate appearances. To say that he tends to swing at the first pitch he likes feels like an understatement. To his credit, Centeno has improved offensively as he’s matured. He hit just .183 in rookie ball over a season and a half (ages 17 & 18, for the record) but as a 24-year-old at Triple-A Las Vegas posted a .291 batting average with an acceptable .343 on-base percentage.
All that said, Centeno’s arm behind the plate has been his calling card as a minor leaguer. Everything I find about his online touts his throwing arm and defensive skills. His career minor league caught stealing percentage is 40%. That’s a quality number.
The Brewers haven’t carried a legitimate 40-man-worthy third catcher in some time, but given the scouting reports and the digital reputation, it’s easy to see why they felt Centeno was worth the claim and spot he’s currently holding.
Barring injury, Centeno should be the starting catcher at Colorado Springs once camp breaks. It’ll be nice to have a plus defender with at least some bat-to-ball skills at the ready should his services be required in Milwaukee. And at just 25, he could find himself in position to take over for the backup job in Milwaukee one day. After all, arbitration can be a dangerous thing for a guy like Martin Maldonado (who is cost-controlled through 2016, for the record). Age, skills (did I mention he bats lefty?), and availability could dictate what comes down the road. Centeno, if I’m doing my math correctly, should have two options remaining. One will be used in each of the next two seasons, but maybe there will be a job ready for him in 2017…?
For 2015, however, it’ll be some Colorado Springs cooking with an eye on September 1.