Martin Maldonado is a welcome addition for fans who appreciate the art of framing. The new Cubs catcher ranks in the top tier of framing over the last few years and only two other catchers since 2017 have saved more runs via framing than Maldonado’s 27.2 (loser Tyler Flowers: 32.0; Austin Hedges: 28.0). Last year, Maldonado ranked 18th of 117 qualified MLB catchers with 5.9 runs saved.
This season, However, Maldonado has remained pretty neutral in that area. But considering we have such a large sample size of his catching numbers, it’s probably unwise to assume that he is suddenly an average framer.
Theo Epstein certainly isn’t perturbed by Maldonado’s framing this season and gushed about his receiving ability after the trade.
“[Maldonado’s] an established catcher in this league who does a lot of great things behind the plate. He can really receive. He can really throw. He’s handled some of the best pitchers in the game.”
While Willson Contreras has also handled some of the best veteran pitchers, he ranks 93rd of 95 qualified catchers in framing runs this season. And the All-Star’s underwhelming score isn’t a byproduct of small sample size. Contreras also ranked dead last in framing runs in 2018. We know his arm and attitude are luxuries behind the dish, but his receiving ability is still a work in progress.
Unlike Contreras, Victor Caratini rates as plus receiver this season with 1.4 runs saved, which has been better than 75% of MLB catchers. Still, it’s possible that Caratini’s numbers are limited by a small sample (even though I think he looks pretty soft and controlled behind the dish).
The trio of Contreras, Caratini, and Maldonado instantly gives the Cubs the safest and most potent catching depth in MLB. Of course, the team has the best hitting catcher in MLB with Contreras. Plus, Joe Maddon can deploy Caratini not just at catcher but also at first to spell Rizzo if needed.
Things could change over the next two weeks, but this is a pretty solid trifecta.