There were a lot of expectations placed on Jacob Nottingham last season. The centerpiece of a deal that sent slugger Khris Davis to Oakland, Nottingham was immediately pegged as “The Catcher of the Future.”
He was coming off a year in which he hit .316/.372/.505 across two levels of A-balland was ranked among Baseball Prospectus' Top-100 prospects. And then he hit .234/.295/.347 for Double-A Biloxi, striking out 39 more times than he did the year before despite seeing 50 fewer at-bats.
"I know I have a lot more in me. It's a grind. It's a process, and that's what people sometimes don't understand. Obviously, I want to get there [to the Major Leagues], but I'm not going to do too much. I feel like I did that a little last year. That's what I'm learning from."
Defensively, some have questioned whether Nottingham will be able to stick behind the plate long-term. He stands 6'3" and 227 pounds, and the track record for big catchers is a bit spotty. Still, manager Craig Counsell tells McCalvy their evaluations show him getting better defensively:
"I think if we were having a conversation where he went backwards as a receiver, we might be asking that question, but he went forward as a receiver. ... "He's a catcher. I don't see this as a question, really."
"The information put on catchers is greater than any other player," Counsell said. "Sometimes, that's also overwhelming for them, and you have to kind of strike that balance of where it's overwhelming and where it's not."
Nottingham will likely head back to Biloxi for another full season at Double-A, barring some remarkable improvements that force the club's hand. But the future of Brewers catching has also gotten a lot more crowded since Nottingham was acquired last year.
When he joined the organization, it was pretty well known that Jonathan Lucroy was on his way out and Martin Maldonado was thought of more as a career backup. But in the past year, Milwaukee has traded for Andrew Susac as part of the Will Smith deal and swapped Maldonado for Jett Bandy, both of whom could stake a long-term claim behind the plate.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference