Nottingham not trying to do too much

Catcher learning from mistakes during debut year in Brewers organization

February 20th, 2017
Jacob Nottingham looks to learn from last year and take a smarter approach in Spring Training. (Morry Gash/AP)Morry Gash/AP

PHOENIX -- says his debut season in the Brewers' organization was about learning lessons, but here's one the catching prospect almost forgot.

When he arrived in camp last week, Nottingham parked in the same spot he occupied last March 12, the day he blasted a long batting practice home run that shattered the rear window of his own car. Nottingham's Twitter post that afternoon caught the eye of an auto glass repair company, which sent a crew to Maryvale Baseball Park several days later to make a complementary fix.

Why risk another smash?

"Well, we're not going to take BP on the field the first day, are we?" Nottingham asked. "I'm going to have to find a little hiding spot for my car."

That would be a savvy move for a young player still finding his way in professional baseball. Acquired with Minor League pitcher Bubby Derby in the January 2016 trade that sent slugger to Oakland, Nottingham spent the season as a 21-year-old at Double-A Biloxi and realizes now that he tried too hard to impress a new organization. Nottingham's .641 OPS was a career-low (it was .877 at a couple of Class A levels the year before) and his 138 strikeouts were a career high.

"I know I have a lot more in me," he said. "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."

But Nottingham did make strides defensively, said Brewers manager Craig Counsell and catching coordinator Charlie Greene. That explains why the club is steadfast that Nottingham will continue to catch, even as outside observers who have seen his 6-foot-3, 227-pound frame move behind the plate continue to predict he will wind up at a different position.

"I think if we were having a conversation where he went backwards as a receiver, we might be asking that question," Counsell said. "But he went forward as a receiver. …"He's a catcher. I don't see this as a question, really."

Said Greene: "It was his first year catching every day at Double-A. That's a tough league. There was a lot going on."

Greene and other Brewers instructors will continue to work with Nottingham this season on his receiving. They teach pitch-framing, and have begun to collect data on catchers' framing similar to that which is available in the Major Leagues.

The organization is in a transitional period after trading to the Rangers in August and to the Angels in December. Nottingham is expected to begin this season in the Minors.

"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.

"But defensively, from a receiving perspective, I think that's the place where Jacob probably made the greatest strides development-wise."