When Jonathan Lucroy singled in the 7th inning of Sunday’s NLCS to plate an insurance run for the Brewers, I couldn’t help but think about what a nice surprise he was this year and the prospects of going back after him in next year’s draft. With a .265-12-59 batting line, no one would dare protect him in a keeper league despite an obvious low cost. However, in deeper fantasy leagues or leagues that require you to start two catchers, he could end up one of those staples; a guy you quietly draft every year and get solid, not phenomenal but solid, production from without concern.
In one league, I picked up Lucroy in the 21st round and in my primary auction league, I snagged him late for a buck. My expectations weren’t all that high as there was nothing special about either his minor league totals or his half season in the bigs in 2010. One league was a 15 teamer, the other 16, and both required two catchers to start. Lucroy had shown a little bit of pop in the minors — 20 in 2008 between A and A+ ball — and had the potential to hit double digits in the majors. But he also didn’t have a high K% and could draw a walk here and there. His batting average and OBP weren’t the greatest, but not bad enough to hurt me as a second catcher, and ultimately, I was pretty high on the Brewers coming into the season. I felt that in a moderately low-pressure environment, and with such stars around him like Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, he could find success at the major league level. Maybe not huge success, but enough to get by in fantasy.
When the month of May came to a close and Lucroy was hitting over .300 with 6 home runs and 25 RBI, I was ecstatic. It wasn’t quite fantasy gold in comparison to other early season breakouts, but it sure was close. I knew he would slow down soon enough. After all, he was just about to turn 25 years old and hadn’t had the experience of catching in the majors for a full season. The position is obviously taxing and it was going to wear on him soon enough. However, that made him the perfect sell-high candidate, and while I couldn’t find a taker in one league, the Joe mauer owner in the other league was ready to accept him. Ultimately, a small package that included Lucroy netted me Matt Cain and Corey Hart in late June and that deal was integral in helping me finish in the money.
So next year, I’m certainly keeping Lucroy on my radar and will happily consider him in my draft. His reduced K% in the second half along with an increased walk rate to finish the season give me reason to believe that he is a work in progress headed in the right direction. He’s got solid plate discipline and makes great contact when he’s up there. If anything, he could stand to be a little more aggressive up there and swing the bat more (just a 43.5 Swing% which is a little below average). Again though, he’s still young and he’s still learning what it takes to be a successful big league catcher. Hopefully, he’ll remain solid throughout the playoffs but still stay off most people’s radar next season. Of course, once the Milwaukee Brewers win the World Series this year, that point will be moot as everyone will soon know who he is.