Houston Astros secret weapon remains key piece to championship puzzle

Houston Astros Alex Bregman, Michael Brantley, Martin Maldonado, Jose Urquidy, Jose Altuve
Martin Maldonado caught a perfect game this week. Composite image by Brandon Strange.
Top Houston Astros revelations from the 2022 World Series

Throughout the offseason, there was a lot of talk from Houston Astros owner Jim Crane and even manager Dusty Baker about wanting to address the catcher position.

Houston’s biggest target was Willson Contreras, who spent seven seasons with the Chicago Cubs and ultimately signed with the St. Louis Cardinals.

As a result, catcher Martín Maldonaldo, who’s spent the past four seasons with Houston, became a little disappointed with the team and fans, but he told the Houston Chronicle he has used it as motivation heading into 2023.

Maldonaldo reminded everyone in the World Baseball Classic on Monday why he has been a key figure for the Astros behind the plate, which extends beyond just batting numbers.

The 36-year-old catcher was behind the plate for Team Puerto Rico, which put together the first ever perfect game in the history of the World Baseball Classic in a 10-0 win against Israel.

There were four different pitchers on the mound that put together eight perfect innings for Puerto Rico. The game was cut short due to the WBC’s mercy rule. The one constant was the person behind the plate — Maldonaldo. He even came around to score three different times in the win, getting one hit and drawing a walk for Puerto Rico.

Maldonaldo has always been known for his stellar defense. Nicknamed “The Machete” for his ability to cut down opposing base runners seeking to steal bases, Maldonaldo’s biggest downside has been his ability to get hits.

During the 2022 postseason, Maldonaldo’s slashes were .207/.303/.241. He got six hits in 29 appearances. Some Houston fans expressed frustration throughout the playoffs with Maldonaldo’s struggles.

The Astros have seeked a catcher with a higher offensive upside for several years. It is why they traded for Christian Vazquez in 2022. While Houston missed on Contreras, it has seen two younger catchers shine during spring training.

Yainer Diaz’s slashes are .300/.300/.550, and Korey Lee’s slashes are .375/.474/.813 throughout 2023 spring training.

While both 24 year olds offer a higher offensive upside, at least in spring training, Maldonaldo’s performance in the WBC highlights why he has been a prominent player for Houston the past few years. He was also the catcher last June when the Astros no-hit the New York Yankees.

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How this player could be the secret weapon for the 2024 Astros

ESPN Houston's John Granato & Lance Zierlein take a look at the early success for Jake Meyers this spring and what that would mean for the Astros in 2024!

Check out the video above for the full discussion!

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