"I think getting drafted is the hardest thing to explain, it's when something feels so surreal yet you know you worked as hard as you could at something and attain it," said Rob Brantly. "Getting drafted by the Tigers was an honor to know that they thought enough of me to select me in the third round and it was an emotional and exciting moment for me and my family."
The 6-foot-2, 205 pound catcher from Temecula Valley, California was a standout player for the Highlanders in his two years at UC-Riverside. In Brantly's sophomore year he earned various conference awards and led the team in hits and total plate appearances. He was also ranked in the top five in nearly every batting statistic for the club that year. He consistently made firm contact with the ball due to his steady swing and bat speed. Brantly was also billed as a highly skilled defensive catcher who displayed durability and athleticism behind the plate. His hard work ethic from college has served him well as he has transitioned into the minor leagues.
Brantly began his minor league career in 2010 by playing for the West Michigan Whitecaps. In his first year in the minors he played in 52 games tallying 48 hits, 33 walks, and 21 runs batted in with a .255 average.
"The biggest difference [from college to the minors] was in catching, because in college for a lot of teams [catchers] usually aren't allowed to call your own game, as far as pitch selection goes and there isn't as much communication between you and the pitcher because most of it is controlled by the coach. When I first got to Low-A West Michigan, I had to start calling my own game and kind of improving my game awareness as far as what hitters were doing, what their tendencies were before the game and what adjustments they were making during the game in order to call the right pitch, that's the biggest change," said Brantly reflecting on the change from college to the minor leagues.
Brantly returned to West Michigan to start the 2011 season and excelled in the first half of the season by posting a .303 average, a .366 on-base percentage, and a .440 slugging percentage with 44 runs batted in and 24 extra-base hits in 75 games. With the combination of a hot start and some experience under his belt the Tigers moved Brantly up to High-A Lakeland.
He finished the 2011 season in Lakeland but cooled off some by only posting a .219 average with 32 hits and 5 walks in 146 at-bats.
To start the 2012 season, Brantly was bumped up once again within the organization, this time to the Tigers' Double-A affiliate, the Erie Seawolves. In the early part of the season Brantly often switched starts with catcher John Murrian but Brantly soon took over the starting job.
"The pace of the game always picks up a little bit when you first get there but after you play a few games and grow and learn it slow backs down and from the maturity of the guys here, I can definitely learn a lot from those who have had big league experience," said Brantly when comparing the game at the Double-A level to the Single-A level.
Brantly has been on a tear since the start of the year and has really shown what he has in the tank. Thus far this season he has a .347 average with 41 hits, 13 doubles, 22 runs batted in with only 12 strikeouts all while playing strong and tactful defense behind the plate.
The Erie catcher feels confident about where his current team is headed. "We always knew our capabilities as far as a team. We have a lot of good bats and a strong offense and we got a very smart bullpen. Our bullpen is really starting to buckle down and make good pitches, big pitches in big situations that we weren't making in the past and it's all starting to come together now."
Brantly's outlook about the future is pretty simple, "Every baseball player sets a goal for himself to have a career in the major leagues. It's one of my top goals and an ability level that I feel I can attain and is in my grasp to do. I'm working with Coach Cron and my catching coordinator to elevate my game to a new level and I am really excited to see what the future holds."