Jonathan Lucroy waited a while before signing a contract. He will play the 2018 season with Oakland. How will he do in the AL West this time?
The American League West has been overhauled this offseason. All five teams look to be competitive throughout the season. The Oakland A’s are the most recent team to make a move as they sign catcher Jonathan Lucroy. After a poor stint in the division last year, can he recover and be valuable again?
The catching pool is shallow this season. After the top four or five players, you’re grasping at straws for a starting option. Now that Lucroy is on a team, the position gets a little deeper. I originally had him as my No. 10 catcher but will move him up two spots, ahead of Wilson Ramos and Evan Gattis.
Lucroy hit a combined .265 with six home runs, 40 RBI and 45 runs between the Rangers and Rockies. This was a big decline in performance for Lucroy, mostly in power. He hit double-digit home runs in five of his first six full seasons. Lucroy hit seven in 2015.
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His fly ball rate dropped seven percent from his career average. His groundball rate went up 11 percent as well. Lucroy was not making hard enough contact, 22.3 percent last year and 31.2 career average.
Even leaving Globe Life Park and moving to Coors Field did not help his case. His fly ball rate went up some but he was making the same contact and hit just two home runs in 46 games. Lucroy finished as the 23rd-best catcher in baseball last year.
Adding Lucroy upgrades everyone around him. The A’s were expected to use Bruce Maxwell behind the plate this season. He hit .237/.329/.333 in 76 games. Lucroy has a pretty good chance of eclipsing that this season.
I previously talked about Matt Joyce as a value pick. The team also has Khris Davis, Matt Olson and Stephen Piscotty in the heart of the order. Lucroy hitting behind them will give him a lot of opportunities to drive in 65-70 runs.
It also helps that the Oakland Coliseum is a hitter-friendly park. It rated 11th in home runs, 12th in hits and sixth in runs scored. If Lucroy can get the power back under his bat, then expect another double-digit home run season from him.
Outside of the Astros, the AL Wes doesn’t have that strong of starting pitching, giving Lucroy a chance to bounce back to his 2016 level of performance. The A’s have a sneaky good lineup. I would be okay with Lucroy as my starting catcher knowing I have a serviceable backup on the bench.