Last season BCB readers (sic) participated in the annual ranking of the Brewers’ prospects. Let’s see how those prospects advanced (or not) their standings in the list.
#7 Jacob Nottingham
Jacob Nottingham spent the 2016 season in the AA Southern league with Brewers’ affiliate Biloxi. The Shuckers finished 72-67, and Nottingham was the regular catcher for the whole season, starting 94 of the 139 games. He also started 2 games a first base.
Jacob did not have a good season offensively. In 456 plate appearances he only walked 29 times and struck out 138. His 11 homers were a disappointment, and a slugging average of .347 was much lower than you would hope for.
One concern for Nottingham has been whether he will develop into a major-league capable defender. His 6’ 2” 230 lb frame is big for today’s catching model, and while he has been rated with an adequate to plus arm, his work at blocking balls and catching skills has been questioned. He had 21 passed balls last year, but the Biloxi pitching staff performed well enough, finishing third in the league in WHIP (1.26) and fourth in the league in ERA (3.59).
Indeed, the Southern League looks to have been a pitcher’s league last year. The most homeruns any team hit was 109, and the Shuckers hit 81. Nottingham’s total of 11 was actually the 6th most in the league (tied with the proverbial many). We would still like to see better production at the plate from a player we hoped was on track to become a starting catcher at the big league level, but the numbers are not quite as poor as they seem.
Nottingham is only 21, and the Southern League’s median age is 24. This was a big jump for him, and he was one of the youngest regular players in the league. It would appear that the Brewers are committed to Jacob at catcher, and we will probably see him repeating with the Shuckers next year. Continued defensive development, better plate discipline with a higher on base percentage, and better power numbers are the goals, and could lead him to AAA in 2018.
The Brewers are still wide open at catcher for the long term. Nottingham is not blocked by any player; his opportunity is real. A solid season this year and the deeper reading of his stat line will most likely keep him in the Top 10 Prospect list next spring. He is certainly a player to watch next year.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs