Melvin on catchers making Double-A jump

I joined the crowd last night writing about Jason Kendall‘s uncertain future in Milwaukee after Brewers GM Doug Melvin once again touted prospect Jonathan Lucroy as a candidate to catch at least part-time in 2010.

I wanted to highlight one section of the story, borrowing Melvin’s comments on 1250-AM WSSP last Friday. He made some of the same comparisons yesterday in a chat with Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, so I think it’s worth passing along:

lucroy.jpg“Jonathan Lucroy is an advanced player,” Melvin told the radio station last week. “We went through the list of players who jumped from Double-A to the big leagues, and there’s a pretty large list of them, from Russell Martin to Chris Snyder of the Diamondbacks to [Kurt] Suzuki with Oakland. Jason Kendall did it in his career. Pudge Rodriguez. There are a number of catchers who have jumped from Double-A to the big leagues, and it might be because of need as much as anything.”

So I went through some of those players and, Martin certainly fits what could lie ahead for Lucroy. Martin had just turned 23 and had played only 23 games at Triple-A before debuting with the Dodgers in 2006. He batted .282 with 10 home runs and 65 RBIs in 121 games that season.

Snyder also was 23 when the D-backs promoted him in 2004, but unlike Lucroy, who never played an inning over the Class A level before 2009, Snyder had played parts of two seasons at Double-A before his Major League debut. Snyder struggled at the plate in his first full big league season in 2005. Suzuki was also 23 when the A’s came calling in 2007 and put up numbers in his final Double-A season extremely similar to Lucroy’s output in 2009, but Suzuki played more than two months at Triple-A before his promotion.

Kendall was only 21 when the Pirates made him their Opening Day catcher in 1996 after a season-plus at Double-A. Kendall hit .300 in his first big league seasons, but the Brewers don’t necessarily see that kind of output from Lucroy. He profiles more as a Terry Steinbach-type.

Rodriguez had even less experience than Lucroy, with only 50 Double-A games under his belt before the Rangers promoted him as a 19-year-old in 1991.

Lucroy batted .267 at Double-A Huntsville in 2009 with nine home runs, 66 RBIs and a .380 on-base percentage. He walked 78 times versus 66 strikeouts.

“We’re probably going to look seriously at Jonathan,” Melvin told the radio station. “He can handle a pitching staff. He gets more walks than strikeouts. In fact, Ken Macha called me last week in Arizona and said, ‘I’m just calling to see how Lucroy is doing.’ And just as he asked me, Lucroy hit a line drive over the left-field fence, so the timing was good. He’s getting a lot of praises in Arizona, seriously enough that we are going to consider him a candidate.”

Lucroy, who won’t turn 23 until June 24, would skew the Brewers even younger. When Melvin traded shortstop J.J. Hardy to Minnesota on Friday he received the team’s new starting center fielder in return, and Carlos Gomez won’t turn 24 until Dec. 4. The trade also opened the shortstop position for Alcides Escobar, who won’t be 23 until Dec. 13.

Those youngsters could play behind projected Opening Day starter Yovani Gallardo, who turns 24 on Feb. 27.

Melvin was in meetings all morning on Tuesday and did not return a call from MLB.com seeking his thoughts about the team’s catching situation. Kendall, who formally filed for free agency on the first day to do so last week, also did not return a call.

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