Jonathan Lucroy has shared a dugout with some of the best hitters of the 21st century.
Since 2000, Albert Pujols leads all players with 100 career bWAR. The retired Adrian Beltre ranks third (89.5) and Mike Trout sits behind him in fourth (74.1). Lucroy has played with all three players at some point during his 12-year career in the majors.
On Tuesday, he played his first game as a teammate of Nationals phenom Juan Soto. The veteran catcher walked away from that contest, during which Soto hit his first career walk-off, just as impressed with Soto as he was with any of the aforementioned future Hall of Famers.
“I played with Mike Trout, I played with Albert Pujols, I played with Adrian Beltre,” Lucroy said on a Zoom call. “I played with some special, special players [and] hitters. Been really fortunate to see guys like that my entire career and he’s just as deadly and just as effective offensively as anyone I’ve ever seen.”
Lucroy signed with the Nationals this week after a COVID outbreak in the clubhouse forced the team to play without its top two catchers Yan Gomes and Alex Avila. Washington made Lucroy its Opening Day catcher despite him not being cleared to even join the team until the morning of its first game. He rewarded the club with a two-RBI double in his first at-bat.
As a catcher, Lucroy sees other hitters through a different lens than most. When recalling how he’s tried to gameplan facing Soto as an opponent in the past, Lucroy admitted there’s no clear path to success.
“He’s a professional hitter,” Lucroy said. “He’s just so strong and when you have the kind of power he does opposite field, that’s really, really hard to call a game against. Because he just has so much coverage and you make a mistake over the middle of the plate, he’s gonna make you pay for it.”