Martin Maldonado

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Martin Benjamin Maldonado Valdes

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Biographical Information[edit]

Catcher Martin Maldonado reached AAA in 2009 and the major leagues in 2011.

Maldonado was picked by the Anaheim Angels in the 27th round of the 2004 amateur draft. He was signed by scout Arnold Cochran and hit .217/.277/.233 that year in his pro debut with the AZL Angels. In 2005, Martin batted .256/.278/.279 for the AZL Angels and was 8 for 32 with two walks and a homer for the Orem Owlz. The next season, Maldonado showed little progress at .222/.309/.288 for the AZL Angels.

Let go by Los Angeles in January 2007, he signed with the Milwaukee Brewers the same month. In 2007, he hit .221/.309/.288 for the West Virginia Power. For the 2008 season, the 21-year-old played for the Brevard County Manatees (.266/.352/.351 in 34 G) and Huntsville Stars (.194/.225/.276 in 31 G). He gunned down an impressive 46% of runners who tried to steal against him.

Maldonado split 2009 between the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (2 for 19, 2 BB), Nashville Sounds (6 for 18, BB, 2B) and Brevard County (.199/.300/.259). He again threw out 46% of attempted base-stealers. He led Florida State League catchers in fielding percentage (.995), assists (95) and passed balls (17).

In 2010, Maldonado played for Brevard County (4 for 33, BB), Huntsville (.252/.347/.369 in 34 G) and Nashville (.253/.309/.425 in 52 G). He threw out 43% of runners. He was then put on Puerto Rico's preliminary roster for the 2010 Pan American Games Qualifying Tournament. He mad ehis major league debut with the Brewers when rosters expanded in September of 2011, after hitting .287/.373/.436 in 103 games between Huntsville and Nashville. With Milwaukee, he only got into 3 games and had one at-bat. He played 35 games for Nashville at the start of 2012, hitting only .198, then was called up to Milwaukee for good at the end of May. He played 78 games in the National League, hitting .266 with 8 homers and 30 RBIs. In 2013, he fell to .169 in 67 games as the back-up of Jonathan Lucroy.

Playing for the Brewers on April 18, 2014, Maldonado literally hit the cover off the ball in the 6th inning of a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He slashed a ground ball towards third baseman Pedro Alvarez, causing the stitches on the baseball to fall apart; Alvarez was forced to field a ball with a large piece of leather flopping off and could only throw a fluttering quail towards first base, which Martin easily beat for an infield single. Lucroy had an outstanding season for the Brewers that year, which cut down Martin's playing time. He played only 52 games and went to bat 111 times, hitting .234 with 4 homers and 16 RBIs.

He had a memorable day against the Arizona Diamondbacks on May 31, 2015, when he went 4 for 6 with 2 runs and 3 RBIs. His day concluded when he hit a walk-off homer off Vidal Nuno in the 17th inning to give the Brewers a 7-6 win. A 5 hours and 49 minutes, it was the longest game by time in the history of Miller Park and Maldonado caught all of it. He had been playing regularly for stretch, as Lucroy had suffered a broken toe on April 20th, leaving the starting job to Maldonado in his absence. It was good that Lucroy was scheduled to return to the team on June 1st, as Martin needed the rest after his epic game. He played 79 games that season, hitting .210 with 4 homers and 22 RBIs. he had a very similar year in 2016, again backing up Lucroy and hitting .202 with 8 homers and 21 RBIs in 76 games.

On December 13, 2016 Maldonado was traded with pitcher Drew Gagnon to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for catcher Jett Bandy. In 2017, he was a clear regular for the first time of his career and played 138 games, after having never played as many as 80 in his first six seasons. It was his defensive work that was the highlight of his year, as he won a Gold Glove as the best defensive catcher in the American League. He hit just .221 - right on his career norm, but set personal bests with 19 doubles, 14 homers, 43 runs and 38 RBIs, although this was mainly a function of increased playing time.

On July 26, 2018, with Maldonado due to become a free agent and the Angels 15½ games out of first place, he was traded to the Houston Astros for Patrick Sandoval and $250,000 in international bonus money. He was hitting .223 in 78 games for the Angels, and with the Astros hit .231 in 41 games. Overall, he hit .225 with 18 doubles, 9 homers and 44 RBIs. He played regularly in the postseason, starting the first two games of Houston's three-game sweep of the Cleveland Indians in the Division Series, and four of the five games of the ALCS against the Boston Red Sox. He went 2 for 19 (.105) in the two series in what was his first taste of the postseason.

He became a free agent after the 2018 season, but had to wait until the first week of March to find a team: the Kansas City Royals brought him on board shortly after they lost starting C Salvador Perez for the entire 2019 season because of Tommy John surgery. He was the starter for the Royals over the first half and hit .227 with 6 homers and 17 RBIs in 74 games. On July 15th, he was traded to the Chicago Cubs, who had just placed starting C Willson Contreras on the injured list, in return for P Mike Montgomery. He only stayed with the Cubs until Contreras was healed, going 0 for 11 in 4 games. On July 31st, he was on the move again, returning to the Houston Astros in return for OF/IF Tony Kemp. He played 27 games for Houston and hit .202 with 6 homers and 10 RBIs, splitting time with Robinson Chirinos, allowing the Astros to get rid of Max Stassi, who had hit just .167 as the back-up. He saw regular action during the postseason as well, with a total of 7 games as the Astros made it to Game 7 of the World Series before bowing to the Washington Nationals. Overall, he went 6 for 20 (.300) with a double and a homer. On December 23rd, the Astros re-signed him for two years and $7 million.

He found some stability starting in 2020 as he became the Astros' undisputed starting catcher in spite of some sub-par production with the bat: his defense was just so good that the team could live with some limited production at the plate. He played in 47 of the 60 games in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, hitting .215 with 6 homers and 24 RBIs. Hos OPS+ of 99 was actually the highest of his career. The Astros went on another deep postseason run in spite of a mediocre regular season, only bowing out in the seventh game of the ALCS against the Tampa Bay Rays. He went 6 for 35 with 2 doubles and a homer in 13 postseason games. In 2021, his offensive contribution was minimal as he batted .172 in 125 games, although he did hit 12 homers and drove in 36 runs. His OPS+ was just 58. He played in the World Series for the second time that year, but only contributed 6 hits in 16 games - all singles, as the Astros were defeated by the Atlanta Braves in the Fall Classic. He was pinch-hit for regularly both during the regular season and the postseason, although Houston had enough hitting firepower overall to be able to live with his weak bat. It was more of the same in 2022: a .186 average in 113 games, but with occasional flashes of power (15 homers) and an OPS+ of 68. However, the Astros had the best record in the AL, in no small part due to an outstanding pitching staff that he led expertly, and then breezed through the postseason to claim their second world championship, after their tainted one in 2017. Ironically, the one World series game he missed against the Philadelphia Phillies was the one in which the Astros threw a combined no-hitter - the second in World Series history - with late-season acquisition Christian Vazquez behind the dish. He went 6 for 33 in the postseason, with a double and two RBIs.

On May 22, 2023, he hit his 99th career home run in a game against one of his former teams, the Brewers. What was remarkable was that it gave him at least one long ball against each of the 30 big league teams and of the 69 players who had done this, only four had managed to do so with fewer than 100 dingers. On August 1st, he was behind the plate for the no-hitter thrown by Framber Valdéz; it was the third no-hitter he had caught, but the first one that was a complete game; he had previously caught combined efforts by Astros pitchers in both 2019 and 2022, not to mention a combined mercy rule-shortened perfect game by Puerto Rico against Israel in the 2023 World Baseball Classic. Only Carlos Ruiz and Jason Varitek, with four each, have caught more major league no-hitters than him. He hit .191 in 116 games that season, with 15 homers and 36 RBIs for an OPS+ of 66. Rookie Yanier Diaz, a much more dangerous hitter, took time away from him behind the plate during the regular season, but once the postseason began, he was again Dusty Baker's choice to handle the pitching staff, appearing in 11 of the 12 games the Astros played until their elimination in seven games in the ALCS at the hands of the Texas Rangers. He went 4 for 28 (.143) with no extra-base hits in those games.

2023 marked the end of an era for the Astros as Baker resigned as manager following the postseason, and at the end of December, Maldonado signed a one-year deal to join the Chicago White Sox, leaving Houston's catching job to Diaz, with another veteran, Victor Caratini, having been signed to be his back-up. In Chicago, he was expected to work with Korey Lee and Max Stassi in guiding a young pitching staff.

Notable Achievements[edit]

Further Reading[edit]

  • Hannah Keyser: "'He’s a God-fearing man that’s also borderline gangster’: Why the Houston Astros can't quit the worst catcher in baseball; Even if the stats can't measure it, Astros coaches and pitchers rave about what Martín Maldonado brings to every start", Yahoo! Sports, August 24, 2023. [1]
  • Bill Ladson: "Maldonado guides trio of Astros pitchers to no-hitter", mlb.com, June 25, 2022. [2]
  • Sarah Langs, Brent Maguire and Cole Jacobson: "Incredible facts about Framber's no-no and the backstop behind it", mlb.com August 2, 2023. [3]
  • Scott Merkin and Brent Maguire: "Veteran catcher Maldonado agrees to 1-year deal with White Sox", mlb.com, December 27, 2023. [4]

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