Drew Lugbauer Could Be Rare Catcher Who Hits

The Braves have struggled to find a catcher who produces both offensively and defensively since Brian McCann departed as a free agent after the 2013 season.

Atlanta officials believe that trend could change.

No player at instructional league impressed more than catcher Drew Lugbauer, an 11th-round pick out of Michigan in June.

“He’s been focusing solely on catching after playing first, third and catcher this summer,” farm director Dave Trembley said. “We’ve been very impressed with his aptitude behind the plate. He has great size, and he’s a lefthanded hitter with power.”

The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Lugbauer earned All-Big Ten Conference honors in 2017 after leading Michigan by slugging .518 with 12 home runs, 38 walks and 60 RBIs. Scouts were impressed with his raw power that equated to in-game productivity.

Much of Lugbauer’s defensive activity in Ann Arbor came at third base, where he showed decent hands and above-average arm strength but limited range. His catching opportunities were sporadic, creating minimal interest among most evaluators.

The Braves believed Lugbauer showed promise behind the plate, particularly after watching him catch 15 games between stints in the Appalachian and South Atlantic leagues.

His bat met expectations. Lugbauer hit 10 home runs in 29 games at Rookie-level Danville before batting .277/.338/.462 with 11 doubles, a triple and three homers in 31 outings at low Class A Rome. He also showed patience with a disciplined eye, as well as some swing-and-miss in his power stroke.

At instructs, Lugbauer showed an impressive feel for the game behind the plate. He moves well, displays more quickness than he did at third base, and has a strong and accurate arm on throws to second base. He also displayed the ability to work with pitchers despite his lack of extended experience at the position.

Combine all parts of his game and the possibilities are intriguing.

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