Nov 3, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Houston Astros catcher Martin Maldonado (15) looks on before game five of the 2022 World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports
Welcome to Gallery Sports’ Houston Astros Spring Training player spotlight, Astros Player of the Day. We will look at a different Astros player each day throughout spring training.
Today’s Astros Player of the Day is catcher Martín Maldonado.
Of the 277 players with at least 300 plate appearances in 2022, only six finished with a batting average lower than the .186 compiled by the Astros’ 36-year old catcher, starting the season 7-for-86 over his first 25 games, though he did bat .213 the rest of the way, bad, but better. Maldonado made up for the poor batting average by clubbing a career-high 15 home runs, 12th most among all catchers.
Let’s be honest, though. Maldonado isn’t here to hit. He wants to be good at it, he works hard at it, and he’s proud when he comes through at the plate, but his value comes from what he brings behind the plate, not at it.
Maldonado is the Astros’ leader. Lance McCullers told Gallery Sports last October there’s just an aura about him. His preparation is second to none, and pitchers trust Maldonado to guide them through their outings. Red Sox manager Alex Cora credited Maldonado’s game calling for why his team could only muster three runs over the final three games of the 2021 ALCS after scoring 25 through the series’ first three games.
It’s hard to put a value on exactly how much he means to the Astros, but Carlos Correa told a Twins coach last season Maldonado is worth 15 wins. There’s a reason why only seven catchers have started more regular season games over the three seasons, and Maldonado has also started 39-of-42 postseason games in that span.
Along with his game calling, Maldonado provides immense value behind the dish with his ability to control the opposing team’s run game, a skill expected to take on a greater importance as Major League Baseball’s rule changes were designed to increase stolen base attempts.
A sports hernia that wasn’t revealed until after the World Series limited Maldonado’s effectiveness in throwing out runners, but his presence behind home plate is a deterrent in and of itself.
When healthy in 2021, Maldonado was second in innings caught, but only five of the 14 catchers to catch 800 innings that season were run on less.
Maldonado enters his fourth full season with the Astros as the unquestioned number-one catcher despite the team’s overtures to find an upgrade. Korey Lee and Yainer Diaz, two of the team’s top prospects, will compete to be his backup this spring. Maldonado is a free agent at season’s end, but for the last three years he’s been Dusty Baker and the Astros’ security blanket.