The Miami Marlins began the season with the thought that the catcher position would be set for the year. After a promising 100-plus plate appearances in a 2012 late-season cup of coffee, Rob Brantly appeared to be a player with whom the Marlins could entrust the catcher position for a few years, but 2013 was not kind to the lefty backstop. A half-season of ineffectiveness was enough to completely erase any goodwill towards him, and the Fish replaced him with a worse-hitting veteran abruptly.
Brantly was supposed to be a key to success for the Fish in 2013, but he turned into a pumpkin fairly quickly this past season. He never got into a groove at the plate. By the end of April, he was hitting just .239/.313/.338, and his line from there would not creep past a .250/.327/.330 line he boasted by mid-May. After that point, it was all downhill for Brantly at the plate, as he struggled in each and every aspect on offense.
After keeping with his minor league track record of avoiding strikeouts, Brantly's swing got longer and he whiffed in almost 22 percent of his plate appearances. He still maintained his difficulty drawing walks, as he drew a free pass in just 6.2 percent of plate appearances. This combined to make a miserable OBP thanks to a depressed batting average and a lack of walks all season. Last year, he drew almost as many walks (13 versus 15 this year) as he did this season in less than half of the plate appearances.
But equally as disturbing was his distinct lack of power. As a prospect, he was known as a player with a contact bat who lacked pop at the plate, but last year he launched three homers and eight doubles in 100 plate appearances and slugged .460. He had an ISO of .170 in that short time span, and that gave the Fish some hope for increasing power in a difficult power park. But this year, the lack of power returned to Brantly's game, making 2012 look like a fluke. After hitting 11 extra-base hits last year, Brantly managed just nine this season, including only one home run.
The total package, as a result, yielded a player who lacked pop but was still undisciplined at the plate and failed to make contact. No matter what position you play, Brantly's performance would have been dreadful. Out of all the players on the Marlins with at least 200 plate appearances, Brantly's .238 wOBA was second-worst on the team.
It would not have been bad had Brantly been a defensive stalwart, but he struggled in that department as well. His old problems with wild pitches and passed balls were still present and apparent during the regular season. Brantly was tied for the league lead in passed balls with nine, and he allowed 20 wild pitches in 556 innings caught. In total, his rate of wild pitches and passed balls was a bit higher than the league average, as he allowed one of those events every 19.2 innings versus the league average of 21.1 innings.
To his credit, he did decently in terms of catching would-be baserunners, as he struggled with that last season. This year, he caught 28 percent of them (14 in 50 attempts), which rated as right around league average.
Still, the total defensive package was enough to be a negative, as Brantly cost the Marlins three runs compared to average according to DRS. And it was perhaps the defense that eliminated Brantly from a Major League job. By July, Brantly had been increasingly losing playing time to backup catcher Jeff Mathis, and by August's time, he was demoted to Triple-A and Mathis took over the starting job full time. Brantly was slowly relegated from starter to platoon-mate to backup to demotion in a few short months, and with the Marlins interested in other catchers this offseason, it seems clear the team has lost confidence in Brantly as its catcher of the future.