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Welcome to the majors, Payton Henry

From start to finish, the newly promoted Marlins catcher was in the middle of the action Friday night.

A Marlins roster move I actually agree with! Those have been few and far between this season. With Jorge Alfaro sidelined by a left calf strain—and having reached the end of his rope regardless—catcher Payton Henry got the call-up from Triple-A Jacksonville on Friday.

The Marlins acquired Henry from the Brewers on July 30 in exchange for John Curtiss. The trade was considered an overpay from Miami’s perspective by Baseball Trade Values, hinting that they believed in his major league readiness and would be giving him an opportunity sooner rather than later.

That opportunity came in the series opener against the Pirates, forming a battery with Elieser Hernandez (and later Steven Okert, Anthony Bass and Zach Thompson out of the bullpen).

Henry got involved in the action early, receiving two throws from center fielder Bryan De La Cruz in the top of the first inning. The first one arrived too late to matter, while the other was too perfect to screw up, resulting in an easy outfield assist.

In the next frame, Henry surrendered a stolen base to Anthony Alford. To be fair, the pitch was a low-and-away slider, so he only had time to make the throw from his knees (2.05-second pop time). The play proved to be inconsequential, anyway.

His first time in the batter’s box, Henry battled Wil Crowe for seven pitches, ultimately striking out when he chased a low changeup.

Henry got his revenge in the fifth, scorching a Crowe slider off the center field wall for a double. Statcast tracked its exit velocity at 108.6 miles per hour, the highest for any batted ball in the game!

Fish Stripes original GIF

Henry’s passed ball in the sixth inning proved to be a crucial event. It allowed Pittsburgh runners on first and second to each move up 90 feet, indirectly leading to the game’s decisive run.

In his other plate appearances, the Utah native struck out looking (seventh inning) and swinging (ninth), the latter of which was the final out in Miami’s 2-1 loss.

Henry became the first Utahn ever to play a regular season game for the Marlins.

An honorable mention on my Marlins Top 30 prospects list, Henry was a below-average hitter during parts of two seasons in rookie ball. However, he gradually improved from there:

  • 104 wRC+, 31.9 K% at Low-A in 2018 (age 21)
  • 107 wRC+, 29.5 K% at High-A in 2019 (age 22)
  • 126 wRC+, 25.6K% at Double-A in 2021 (age 24)

Henry debuted at the Triple-A level on June 24, his 24th birthday. He slashed .223/.318/.377 with a 88 wRC+ and 28.5 K% in 41 games there split between Nashville (Brewers affiliate) and Jacksonville.

Defensively, the former sixth-round draft pick maintained a 36% caught stealing rate during his minor league career (including 36% this season).

Henry will still have all three of his minor league options intact entering next year.

The bar for Henry to “justify” the trade with his performance is lower than originally thought. Curtiss injured his right ulnar collateral ligament mere weeks into his Milwaukee tenure and has undergone Tommy John surgery, which is projected to keep him out through much of the 2022 season. Reaching replacement level would be a nice start—Marlins catchers collectively have been valued at -0.7 Wins Above Replacement, according to FanGraphs (fourth-worst in the majors).