Draft strategies typically revolve around simply selecting the best player available. Last year the Tigers drafted highly touted catchers Rob Brantly and Bryan Holaday early. While the selections may have been a mere coincidence, the Tigers had finally added depth to a position that was previously paper thin. The Tigers brass had FINALLY noticed that the catcher situation needed to be addressed down on the farm.
Finally, a step in the right direction.
Currently halfway through the month of May, most players have now accumulated approximately 100 at-bats which is a decent sample to begin evaluating performances. Surprisingly, across the board the lower level catching prospects have posted impressive numbers.
Rob Brantly has been on a tear in Low-A West Michigan this season. The soon-to-be 22 year-old is hitting .350 in 103 at-bats. Brantly has 7 doubles, 2 homeruns and 20 RBI so far this season. Last years third round selection is putting up numbers to back the hitting tool that many scouts described as above average. Perhaps the best news though is that his game behind the plate is steadily improving.
Down in AA-Erie, Bryan Holaday has hit .333 in his last ten games raising his batting average to .265 this season. The 23 year-old has 6 doubles, 3 homers and 14 RBI. Baseball America labeled Holaday the Tigers top defensive catcher this off-season. The assignment is pretty aggressive, so it’s great to see that Holaday is holding his own with the bat.
Beyond the top two catchers in our system lies perhaps the biggest surprise behind the dish this season. The performance in Advanced-A Lakeland from Julio Rodriguez at the plate has been very impressive. Signed in 2006 as a non-drafted free agent, the soon-to-be 21 year-old is batting .341 for the Flying Tigers.
The majority of scouts and analysts have projected the ceilings of this trio to be nothing more than solid back-up catchers. Regardless, their production early on this season should be noted and celebrated. After-all, over the last decade Detroit’s farm system has had virtually nothing behind the dish to write home about.
Keep an eye on these rising stars as they continue to earn their stripes down on farm.