Detroit Tigers catcher Eric Haase looks to solidify himself on the MLB squad in 2020
After some growing pains at backstop in 2019, the Detroit Tigers did a minor overhaul of the catching position in the off season. First the club inked former Yankee Austin Romine to a one-year contract, but they also swung an under-the-radar move by bringing in catcher Eric Haase in a trade with the Cleveland Indians for cash considerations.
Haase’s history comes mainly in the minor leagues, where he has spent the majority of his nine seasons of professional baseball before finding the big leagues in small spurts each of the last two years. In a microscopic sample size, the offensive numbers were woeful for Cleveland; a .094/.147/.188 slash line across just 34 plate appearances. Prior to that, he was able to slash .243/.316/.477 in the minors; good for a .794 OPS.
Offensively, there are two things Haase has been good for: taking walks and hitting home runs. Despite just a .226 average across 102 minor league games in 2019, Haase was still able to produce a .315 OBP while hitting 28 home runs. Of course, the Triple-A baseball had some juice added to it last season. But as a point of reference, Mikie Mahtook was the Mud Hens home run leader with 21 in 2019, so his power proves impressive.
At 27 years old, the time might be ripe to give Haase some major league repetitions; and with an active roster now expanding to 30 to start the season, the odds of Detroit carrying three catchers are high. The challenge, though, is getting someone like Haase, Greiner, or Rogers regular playing time. Austin Romine was brought in to handle the every day catching duties; and in a 60-game season, it will be just as important for him to get regular playing time to stay locked in as it will be to work in the others.
I was originally under the impression Haase was brought in simply as a minor league depth move; someone the club could bring up if Jake Rogers continued to struggle offensively. However, in looking more at the move and the context of Haase’s skill set and where he is in his own development, the acquisition may have been more to put pressure on catcher Grayson Greiner, who did not perform all that well before getting injured in 2019.
Given our big pitching prospects will be in Toledo coupled with the fact that Al Avila was public about the regret the club had about bringing Jake Rogers up too soon, it is easy to see Rogers staying down south to get consistent repetitions and to work alongside the high-end pitchers. If so, Haase might be a lock to stay with Detroit at least to start the season.
The ceiling with Haase is limited. Due to his limitations offensively and the fact he rates as a below average defender with an average arm according to Fangraphs, a back up catcher would be the zenith of his career in the MLB. Luckily for Haase, walks and power would be a welcomed addition to a Detroit Tigers lineup which ranked 29th in home runs and dead last in walks in 2019.