Tigers Build Depth Behind The Plate
DETROIT—In this year's draft the Tigers used their top pick, as well a 10th-rounder, on catchers. Last year the Tigers selected backstops with three of their first nine choices.
It's an interesting decision when you consider that Alex Avila, Detroit's everyday catcher, is just 24.
"We've got a good lineup of catchers for the future," farm director Mike Rojas said. "We've gone from not having depth to perhaps having too many—but that's a good problem to have."
Bryan Holaday, last year's sixth-round choice out of Texas Christian, got the toughest assignment to start the season. The 23-year-old, who was ranked as the Tigers' No. 20 prospect to begin the year, was hitting just .215/.235/.333 for Double-A Erie but had thrown out 29 percent of basestealers.
"He is catching well and throwing well, and he's also starting to hit," Rojas said. "He struggled a little bit, but then made an adjustment to get his leg kick back a little bit and he's making good strides."
At high Class A Lakeland, Julio Rodriguez may have opened the season under the prospect radar, but the 21-year-old Dominican native was hitting .300/.335/.373 while gunning down 36 percent of basestealers.
"He might be under the radar to some people, but he's not under the radar to us," Rojas said. "He's got a great arm, and he's blocking and receiving very well. He's learning how to call a game and handle a pitching staff.
"And he's hitting this year. He had been a free swinger, but he's made some adjustments to make himself more of a professional hitter."
Rob Brantly, a third-round pick in 2010 out of UC Riverside, was hitting .309/.378/.457 at low Class A West Michigan while throwing out 33 percent of basestealers.
"He got off to a hot start in West Michigan, and he had made good strides," Rojas said. "He's a little stiff when he's receiving balls, but he's made some progress there and he's not as stiff as he was last year. The more he plays, the better he gets."
• Among the players the Tigers drafted this year are the sons of their television announcers, Mario Impemba (outfielder Brett Impemba, 49th round) and Rod Allen (first baseman Andrew Allen, 45th).
• Other familiar names drafted by the Tigers include catcher Blaise Salter (38th round), the grandson of former Tiger Bill Freehan and righthander Nick Avila (37th), the nephew of Tigers' assistant general manager Al Avila.