Jonathan Lucroy ended his tenure with the Milwaukee Brewers when he was traded to the Texas Rangers just before the trade deadline on August 1. Let’s take a look at his career and what it has meant to the Brewers.
Lucroy was drafted by the Brewers in the 3rd round of the 2007 MLB draft. He progressed quickly through the system, earning a promotion to AAA Nashville just 10 games into his 4th season. Then, a few weeks later, he was called up to the big league club due to an injury to Brewer starting catcher Greg Zaun.
Lucroy got his first action when he pinch hit for catcher George Kottaras. He led off the 8th inning with a single to left, but he was erased on a force out on a weak ground ball to third. Lucroy got another at bat in the 9th, but he grounded out to third to end the game.
Lucroy would start a few games to spell Kottaras, hitting .357 with a pair of runs scored. He showed his ability to handle himself behind the plate and he took over the starting job on June 10. The Brewers went 36-38 with Lucroy starting and 41-47 when he didn’t.
In 2011, Lucroy helped the Brewers win their first divisional championship since 1982. He played in 136 games, hitting .265 with 12 home runs and 59 RBI. More importantly, he started to develop his reputation as a superior pitch framer.
In 2012, Lucroy hit .320 with 12 home runs and 58 RBI, but he missed 6 weeks due to a broken hand. He came back strong in 2013, hitting .280 with what is still his career high of 18 home runs. The rest of the league was starting to take note of the quiet catcher playing in the smallest market in baseball.
Lucroy had his best year in 2014, earning his first All-Star selection when he started in place of an injured Yadier Molina. He went on to hit .301 with a record-breaking 53 doubles. It was the most doubles by a player who primarily played catcher, and he had 46 doubles in games that he caught, also a record. Finally, the 53 doubles was tied for the most in a single season in Brewer history (Lyle Overbay, 2004).
Lucroy earned his 2nd All-Star selection this season, less than a month before he would be traded to the Rangers. He joined Ted Simmons as the only 2 catchers to be selected to the All-Star roster in Brewer history.
Lucroy has left his mark on the Brewer leader board for catchers (players who caught in at least 40% of his games as a Brewer). He is first in average (.284), on-base percentage (.342), slugging percentage (.436), OPS (.779), and home runs (79). He is also in the top 3 in games played, at bats, hits, runs scored, RBI, doubles, triples, and stolen bases.
Lucroy is going to be missed by the Brewers. On top of the offensive stats, he was one of the elite defensive catchers for at least 5 years. He was a quiet leader in the Brewer clubhouse who could manage the pitching staff. Lucroy worked hard on the weakest part of his game, throwing out would-be base stealers. He threw out 40% of the runners that tried to steal on him this season, including a Major League high of 32.
Lucroy’s legacy is cemented in Brewer history. He is by far the best catcher that the Brewers have ever drafted. The Brewers traded away an elite catcher, but at the age of 30, Lucroy’s best seasons may be over by the time the Brewers expect to compete again.