8. Rob Brantly, C
Drafted: 2010 3rd round (by Detroit) from UC Riverside
Age: 23 Height: 6'2'' Weight: 205 lbs.
As the Miami Marlins began their sell-a-thon last season, one clear area of need was the catching position. John Buck had more than worn out his welcome with Fish fans and when the team dealt Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante to the Tigers in July, many felt they had found the way to address the need with the acquisition of catcher Rob Brantly. Despite righty Jacob Turner being the key prospect in the deal, Brantly could very well end up becoming a valuable piece to the Marlins' puzzle. A left-handed bat with a good approach at the plate and improving defensive skills, Brantly comes in at number eight on our Fish Stripes Top 20 Prospect List.
Brantly was drafted by Detroit in the third round of the 2010 draft out of UC Riverside and quickly became the club's best catching prospect. He was a fast-riser in the Tigers' system, as evidenced by the fact that he never played more than 75 games for any of their minor league clubs. He was ranked by Baseball America as the club's 16th-best prospect prior to last season but is now a consensus top-10 prospect in the Miami system. After the deal, Brantly got his first taste of the majors in September and posted a line of .290/.372/.460 in 31 games for the Marlins, some particularly impressive numbers considering the slow start he had once he was called up. Even though it was a small sample size, Brantly showed steady growth during his first major league experience and the club is hoping that he can continue that trend with further development.
Brantly has a good approach at the plate that should hit anywhere between .260 to .280 at the big league level with average power. Believe it or not, the .460 slugging percentage Brantly posted during his September call-up last season was the highest of his professional career. Even if that particular trend does not continue, he should be able to draw enough walks and get on base enough to offset any lack of power.
Brantly's biggest area for improvement, and one that could prevent him from being anything more than a backup catcher at the big league level, is his defense behind the plate. At 6'2", 205 lbs., Brantly does not have prototypical size for a catcher so wear and tear could become an issue down the line. In addition to that, some of the misplays he made during his stint with the big league club last season could be cause for concern. Brantly possesses a strong enough arm and improving game-calling skills to stick behind the plate, but if he continues to make some of the mistakes he made toward the end of last season, his bat likely isn't good enough to offset the defensive problems and justify having him in the lineup on a regular basis.
All in all, the addition of Rob Brantly to the Marlins' system is a valuable one. If all goes according to plan, he could cement himself as the full-time catcher for this season and beyond, while allowing the organization time to develop young catching talent like Jacob Realmuto (who finds himself right behind Brantly on our list) and focus on other areas of need.