As Grayson Greiner’s struggles became too prominent to warrant a roster spot, Detroit Tigers fans expected the team to turn to top catching prospect Jake Rogers. Instead, the team opted to recall former local star Eric Haase.
Eric Haase is a 27-year-old catcher who played small parts of the last two seasons with the Cleveland Indians. He has struggled mightily in his time in the majors, producing a .335 OPS and 41 percent strikeout rate across 32 at-bats.
The calling card for Haase is his massive raw power, a 70 grade, or great, as rated by Fangraphs. He showed the ability to tap into his power in with the Indians Triple-A team, contributing 48 home runs across his last two seasons with the club. The limited reports out of Toledo indicate that he has been hitting with power there.
If nothing else, Eric Haase is a bit of a feel-good story. Haase was a star at local Dearborn Divine Child High School, where he won two state championships before becoming a seventh-round draft pick of the Indians in 2011.
Jake Rogers is MIA
Jake Rogers, one of the main trade chips the Detroit Tigers received in the Justin Verlander trade, has been waiting in Toledo for another opportunity after a rough debut last season. Rogers slashed .125/.222/.481 across 112 at-bats in 2019 and struggled badly with strikeouts. Even more surprising were his struggles behind home plate. Despite being touted as a plus defender and performing well behind the dish in the minors, Rogers looked overmatched at times defensively.
Rogers remaining in Toledo up until this point is confusing, to say the least. The Tigers spoke optimistically about his future last offseason, as they worked to retool his swing. He backed up their optimism in Spring Training, performing perhaps the best of any catcher on the roster.
With the influx of young pitching coming up for the Tigers now, Rogers seems like a logical fit on the roster even if the bat doesn’t play. His defensive ability and years of experience with the Tigers young pitchers would be extremely useful to have on the roster right now. However, Al Avila and the front office clearly feel differently.
What’s the plan?
There is no evident plan for the catcher position beyond this season. A real argument can be made that, outside of shortstop, catcher is the worst position in the organization.
Current starter Austin Romine is a free agent, and while his leadership has certainly helped the team a bit, he is not the long-term answer. It is hard to imagine the Tigers relying on Rogers to start next season after they have refused to bring him up to the majors this year. Second-round pick Dillon Dingler has drawn some nice reviews from the alternate site in Toledo, but he will not be an option for at least another full season, likely longer.
I wrote about some potential shortstop options for the Detroit Tigers in the next couple of offseasons. Catcher is another position where they may need to look for answers outside the organization. Unfortunately, the options are pretty limited.
J.T. Realmuto is the prize of the 2021 catcher lot and one of the stars of free agency as a whole. He is an all-around star and would be a pipe dream for Tigers fans. It would take a miracle and a ton of cash to see him donning the Olde English D next year. After Realmuto, there are a whole bunch of veteran free agents. Old friends James McCann and Alex Avila could be options, though they come with some severe limitations. The same can be said for veterans Jason Castro and Kurt Suzuki. None of these options are starter caliber catchers for a team trying to open their competitive window.
At this point, the only thing evident with the Tigers’ future at catcher is there is no obvious plan in place. Right now, the most likely scenario is for the Tigers to sign a veteran platoon partner for either Rogers or Haase to begin 2021. Lefties Alex Avila or Jason Castro would make a lot of sense for platoon duties. That being said, this scenario would leave Detroit staring at worst-in-the-league production from the catcher position for yet another season.