KANSAS CITY, MO - JULY 08: Nick Castellanos #1 of Team USA is congratulated by Rob Brantly #10 as catcher Christian Bethancourt #2 of the World Team looks on after hitting a home run during the 6th inning of the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at Kauffman Stadium on July 8, 2012 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Yesterday, we noted that the Miami Marlins were promoting catching prospect Rob Brantly to the majors today in favor of Brett Hayes, who was demoted yesterday following another poor performance at the plate. Brantly was acquired in the trade that sent Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante to the Detroit Tigers in return for Brantly, top pitching prospect Jacob Turner, and relief prospect Brian Flynn. Brantly will be the first Marlin to join the major league club from that trade.
Given that Marlins fans have endured the struggles of John Buck and Brett Hayes at the catcher position this season, it is not surprising that this move is bringing out some positive reactions, The Marlins' duo at catcher has been absolutely futile, hitting .191/.282/.304 (.258 wOBA) as a collective unit. Among major league teams this season, that mark is third to last, ahead of only the catchers of the Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays.
So Brantly, who has been red-hot since coming to the Marlins organization, is expected to provide some much-needed offense. But what can expect from him? Let's review what the authors of Fish Stripes have said before about Brantly.At the Time Of Trade
At the time of the deal, we knew a couple of things about Brantly. He was a contact-hitting catcher who had a breakout 2012 season in Double-A for the Detroit Tigers organization. Before being promoted to Triple-A in Detroit, he was hitting .311/.359/.461 (.362 wOBA) in 195 PA in Double-A Eerie. As a catcher, that is an elite level of production, though Brantly was in his age 23 season while doing this, Still, even for a polished college catching prospect, those are some good numbers, and the Tigers rightly promoted him. He struggled at the start in Triple-A for Detroit before mauling Pacific Coast League pitching with Triple-A New Orleans.
Brantly was unranked going into the season, in part because he hit just .219/.239/.322 (.252 wOBA) in his latest appearance in 2011 for the Tigers' High-A affiliate. But before that, he was once again dominating Single-A competition with an eerily similar (to 2012) line of .303/.366/.440 (.365 wOBA). So he had the hitting skills before this season.
What are Brantly's best qualities? Based on the numbers going into this year, it seemed that contact was his good friend. Prior to the 2012 season, Brantly had only struck out in 11.7 percent of his PA, and in this year, he whiffed in only 8.7 percent of his PA in Double-A. Those numbers have gone up to 18.0 percent in Detroit's Triple-A affiliate and 16.7 percent in his small sample with the Marlins, so expect the strikeouts to climb a little more as he enters the majors. But without significant power (career minor league ISO of .112), Brantly's best tool is hitting plenty of singles and doubles and hoping not to whiff often enough to remain afloat in the majors.
In fact, Fish Stripes's own prospect expert Sam Evans said as much for Brantly's major league chances when he was acquired.
Brantly is never going to hit for much power, but his defense and ability to hit for average could make him a solid starting catcher down the road.
A Recent Look
One thing that we have had a chance to do is actually watch Brantly work a little, as Sam Evans got a chance to see him in a recent game and returned with his scouting report on him and other Marlins Triple-A players. Here is what he had to say about Brantly:
Brantly, of course, was the second biggest name in the Marlins/Tigers trade that sent Anibal Sanchez to Detroit. I came to the ballpark hearing mixed things about Brantly. Some people in the industry see him as an average everyday catcher who could hit 10-12 homers a year, and see some see him as nothing more than a backup. By the time I left the ballpark, I tended to lean towards the backup catcher projection.
Check out the rest of Sam's analysis in the linked article, but the premise here is that although he had a decent performance at the plate, his best attribute still remains his good arm rather than a future major league bat. Of course, as a catcher, one does not need a whole lot of performance at the plate to be viable, so it remains to be seen whether he can hit just well enough that his defense will keep him in the big leagues. But based on Sam's evaluation, it seems the bat is just not going to be stellar enough to be more than a backup or lower-level starter.
For the Marlins, that may be enough given what they have had for almost a decade since Ivan Rodriguez's departure. Based on Brantly's numbers, once again the strikeouts will be key and the difference between a decent-hitting backstop and a career backup at best. Fish fans may get a chance to get their first look as early as tomorrow, as the lefty Brantly should start against one of the right-handed starters in the Philadelphia Phillies series.