No debate: Nottingham to remain a catcher

Counsell praises prospect's work in first big league camp

No debate: Nottingham to remain a catcher

PHOENIX -- The youngest player in Brewers camp earned praise Friday from manager Craig Counsell, who said 20-year-old Jacob Nottingham has quieted the question of where he should play on the diamond.

"There's no question in anybody's mind," Counsell said. "He's going to be a catcher."

Nottingham's 6-foot-2, 230-pound frame and reputation as an offensive player have long led to suggestions he may have to move to first base. Either position would suit the Brewers' long-term plans, since catcher Jonathan Lucroy is likely to be traded before his contract expires, first baseman Chris Carter is signed ony for 2016, and the team had no top prospects at either position before Nottingham's arrival. Those organizational needs made Nottingham attractive as the centerpiece of a three-player trade that sent outfielder Khris Davis to Oakland just before the start of Spring Training.

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But while he's aware of the debate, Nottingham says he's committed to staying put.

"I want to be a catcher. I don't want to move positions," he said. "I mean, if they ask me to, I'll do whatever they say, but I want to be a catcher and I want to be a big league catcher. I'll do anything I can to stay there."

There was a point in Nottingham's not-so-distant past that he considered football as a career. He played tight end, fullback and outside linebacker in high school outside Los Angeles and had a scholarship to play linebacker at the University of Arizona.

Baseball provided a stronger pull, especially when the Astros drafted Nottingham in the sixth round in 2013 and offered him an above-slot, $300,000 signing bonus.

"Baseball has always been my dream," Nottingham said. "I've always wanted to be a big league catcher. ... In football, they wanted me to be too big. You can't have a football body and play baseball. You have to be super strong, you're going to be stiff, and the position I play, you can't have that.

"I miss football, but like I said, baseball has always been my dream."

His dream sent him from Houston to Oakland in last year's Scott Kazmir trade, then to Milwaukee on Feb. 12. MLBPipeline.com rated him the Brewers' No. 10 prospect, the only catcher in the Top 30.

Soon, probably next week, Nottingham will be sent to Minor League camp to continue his development. Until then, he continues to be a sponge in his first big league camp, gaining knowledge from Lucroy, backup catcher Martin Maldonado and high-energy catching coordinator Charlie Greene.

Counsell has noticed.

"I think Jacob has done a great job," Counsell said. "He's made improvements since he's been here. He's a 20-year-old player in Major League camp. I'm pretty sure he's the youngest one here. He's been soaking it all in, and he's done really well with it.

"A lot gets thrown at catchers, so there's a lot to soak in, there's a lot to learn. He's going to continue that, and as a young guy, he's done a really good job taking it in -- but not letting it paralyze him. Still going out when he's got a chance to play and doing a nice job on the field.

"It's noticed, because it's not easy when you have to take in all that information and then go out and play with a clear mind. He's done a nice job of that."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.