This year, the Salt River Rafters will feature seven Milwaukee Brewers prospects, five of whom stem from the club’s Double-A affiliate, the Biloxi Shuckers. The Rafters will not only give Brewers fans one last chance to get some extra baseball in before the end of the season hits but also give them an additional preview of players who could be hitting the major league roster in the next few years.
Jacob Nottingham – C/1B
Before the 2016 season, Nottingham was ranked the No. 66 prospect by Baseball Prospectus (15th for the Brewers) and for good reason.
During the 2015 season, he was on an offensive tear, batting .316/.372/.505 with 17 home runs, 82 runs batted in, and a pair of stolen bases in only 119 games. His defense, although admittedly raw, also began to develop, as he continued the trend of improving his fielding percentage behind the plate, up from .988 in 2014 to .993 in 2015. He also boasts a top notch 32 percent caught stealing rate throughout his minor league career.
But Nottingham still struggles in some areas and the weaknesses of his game have already started to manifest, starting last year and continuing into his first full season in Double-A — his blocking and receiving skills still need considerable development, as he allowed 19 and 21 passed balls in 2015 and 2016 respectively.
Offensively, he also experienced a down year since joining the Brewers organization in the Khris Davis trade in February. This year, he hit .234/.295/.347 with only 11 home runs and 37 RBI. On a positive note, he did also steal nine bases, a large uptick from a minor league career high of four.
The production may also largely be chalked up to poor offensive production all around, as the Shuckers produced the least amount of runs in the Southern League (471) by a large margin (next team up had 510) and also possessed the worst average (.235), on-base percentage (.304) and slugging (.338).
The Arizona Fall League should provide him a good chance to rebound on the season, especially with a new team that should, in theory, be much more consistent on offense considering their plethora of talent. So far through two games, Nottingham is hitting .333/.333/.667 with one RBI and two strikeouts.
In the bigger picture, Nottingham could be the potential difference between the Brewers having home-grown talent behind the plate, or needing to search the free agent market in a few years, as he stands as the only catcher in the team’s top 30 prospects. Currently, the youngest catcher on the 40-man roster is Andrew Susac, who will be 27 by the time the 2017 season rolls around (Nottingham, by contrast, will be 22 next spring).