Detroit Tigers Backup Catcher Choices


Now that James “McCannon” McCann is the starting catcher and Alex Avila is off to free agency, is Bryan Holaday the best option to be the backup? It is no secret that McCann is the newest star on the Tigers lineup and he can hold his own as the daily catcher. Is there a better option available instead of Holaday?

McCann has proved himself as the starting catcher. He has become a real leader and an asset to the team. His outstanding rookie season was highlighted by the fact that he did not commit an error defensively. He also had several clutch at-bats that helped bring the Detroit Tigers some of their wins. The fans love him because of his strong work ethic and team mentality.

Despite his strengths, he does have a few issues that he will hopefully address in the off-season. He was criticized for his pitch-framing ability and he has trouble hitting right-handed pitchers, with nearly a .100 BA difference between left- and right-handed pitchers. His other issue is swinging at too many pitches. His issue with right-handed pitching made Alex Avila an ideal platoon catcher (at least on paper).

Jun 10, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman (54) is congratulated by catcher Brayan Pena (29) after the Reds defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 5-2 at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Interestingly, while McCann has had issues hitting right-handed pitchers, Holaday struggles with lefties. This could be the first sign that Holaday should continue on the team to balance out McCann’s plate performances. But, Holaday does commit errors, especially when he attempts to throw out runners at second. He has a tendency to overthrow the base. Holaday suffered a thumb injury late in the season with the Mud Hens, but he recovered quickly and was called up in September. Holaday is a lovable guy who looks shocked that he gets paid to play baseball. Despite that humility and affable attitude, Tigers fans have not warmed up to Holaday as much as they have to McCann.

There are a few free agent catchers that could platoon with McCann. The most notable two are Brayan Pena, who was on the Tigers roster in 2013 (where he had his best batting average of .297), and A.J. Pierzynski from Atlanta. These two men are polar opposites when it comes to the love-hate relationship with fans and fellow teammates. 

Pena’s 2015 season was not his best, which could mean the Tigers could get him for a fair price. Pena allowed 58 stolen bases without any errors, but he batted .273. Pierzynski batted .300 and committed only two errors. He earned $2 million with the Braves in 2015. Pena earned $1.4 million with the Reds in 2015. Since Bryan Holaday was in the Minor Leagues for most of 2015, his salary in 2015 was much smaller. If he is promoted to the big leagues full-time, he will most like earn the league minimum of $500,000 in 2016.

If the Detroit Tigers are looking for a bargain in a home-grown pitcher, the answer will continue to be Bryan Holaday. If they want experience, the right man is out there.