Brantly was the Tigers third round pick in 2010 out of UC-Riverside, signing quickly for a reported bonus of $330,000.
Brantly started at Low-A West Michigan and had enough time to log 52 games for the ‘Caps. Over that span, he posted a .255/.352/.335 line that included more walks than strikeouts (23 vs. 22), ten doubles, one triple, and one home run.
The Tigers sent Brantly back to West Michigan to start the 2011 season and he responded with a strong half-season performance. In 75 games he posted a robust .303/.366/.806 line with 24 extra-base hits, 24 walks and only 39 strikeouts.
With his polished approach and hot start to the season, the Tigers pushed him to Lakeland around mid-summer. Brantly scuffled some at High-A, hitting only .219 in 39 games, though he did rip six doubles and three home runs and showed another strike strikeout rate (17 in 155 plate appearances).
There's a lot to like in Brantly's game, though his ultimate ceiling is debatable among scouts.
He has a good catching frame with strength throughout and the potential to be a very durable backstop capable of playing numerous games in a row. He is a very good athlete who moves well behind the plate with rapidly improving blocking skills. His receiving can still be a bit rough at times as he boxes pitches and doesn't always help his pitchers with the way he catches the ball.
Overall, Brantly has the potential to be a solid average defender with good athleticism that leads to an ability to receive and handle the running game. He is a hard worker that gets along well with his pitchers.
Offensively, Brantly has a unique knack for contact. He takes a healthy cut at the ball, producing plus bat speed. His hands work well throughout his swing and his swing plane is very consistent. He has the strength to drive the ball to the gaps and occasionally shows the necessary loft and leverage to project for average home-run power.
Contact comes so easily for Brantly that at times he swings at pitches he can't drive just because he knows he can make contact with him. As he develops his offensive game and polishes his understanding of the strike zone, some scouts believe he will outgrow that tendency.
Brantly's offensive ceiling rests somewhere around a .280 hitter with average pop, or plenty of offense for a catcher with solid defensive skills.
When asked to pin down his projection, scouts will float between a fringe-average regular or second division starter and an up-and-down guy that could stick in the big leagues because of his bat. Those scouts that like him believe he could be a nice piece, though with little in the way of above-average potential.
Performance Level Team AB AVG 2B HR RBI SO BB OBP% SLG% A
Brantly is an excellent athlete with a tremendous work ethic. He has not sustained any significant injuries in his pro career.
Brantly entered spring training with a chance to separate himself from the pack and earn a promotion to Double-A Erie. He has performed well in spring training and appears in line for his first crack at truly advanced pitching.
He needs more seasoning, particularly behind the plate, and Brantly will likely spend most of 2013 in the minor leagues as well. He could be ready to take some of the load off Alex Avila in 2014, though two left-handed hitting backstops would make for unique roster construction.
There is rarely enough catching to go around at the Major League level, and if Brantly can prove himself against Double-A competition this year he has a chance to become a valuable trade chip.
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