Benny Sieu-US PRESSWIRE
The rookie catcher came out of nowhere to stabilize one of the game's most important positions.
MVBrewers is a player-by-player look at the most valuable members of the 2012 Brewers, as voted on by you. Here's our top ten:
The series now continues with Honorable Mentions, to cover some of the Brewers we've missed. This is the first installment in that segment. You can see all the player profiles in the Most Valuable Brewers 2012 section. The series continues tomorrow with the second Honorable Mention.
When Jonathan Lucroy broke his hand in the now-infamous suitcase incident on May 28, it could have been a disaster. The Brewer backstop was having a breakout season, hitting .345/.387/.583 in his first 43 games and making a solid case to make the All Star team. His injury left the Brewers with George Kottaras, a solid hitter with questionable defense, as their only healthy catcher. Kottaras wasn't really healthy either, though, as he was dealing with injuries that made it very difficult for him to run.
The Brewers responded by calling up nine-year minor leaguer Martin Maldonado, a 25-year-old Puerto Rican native with a career .236/.313/.333 batting line in over 500 minor league games. Maldonado showed some signs of life at the plate for the first time in 2011, but was hitting just .198/.270/.347 in AAA when he got the call to the big leagues.
Maldonado made his first major league start on May 29, and got a hit. He got another hit and drove in a run the next day, and before we knew it he had leapfrogged Kottaras on the depth chart. Maldonado hit .275/.319/.399 while Lucroy was out, and when he was ready to return the Brewers opted to keep Maldonado and DFA Kottaras.
After years of struggling simply to find one capable everyday catcher, the Brewers now find themselves with two. It's a luxury most teams would love to have, but it's also a tremendous position of strength the Brewers could look to deal from if they decide to hit the trade market this winter.
Five of Maldonado's eight home runs this season came in June, and several of them came in key situations. On June 15 Maldonado was already 1-for-3 when he came up with two outs in the top of the ninth in a 3-3 game against the Twins, and worked a six pitch at-bat before untying the game with this blast off Matt Capps:
Maldonado has less than one year of major league service time, so the Brewers control his rights for several more years and he won't be arbitration eligible for the first time until 2015 or later.