2014 Player Capsule: C Bryan Holaday

TigsTown continues its look at the key contributors from the 2014 season and what their 2015 outlook is. Next up is the Tigers’ backup catcher, Bryan Holaday. Holaday was solid behind the plate but limited offensively in his backup work. But will he face a challenge from prospect James McCann, and would he be able to handle more of a load given the injury concerns to Alex Avila?

Bryan Holaday 2014 Year in Review

2014 Projections and Performance
Perf/Proj PA WAR BA BAbip OBP SLG wOBA D-Val
ZiPS 346 1.1 .237 .287 .285 .339 .273 5
Steamer 192 0.3 .238 .276 .289 .346 .281 2.9
Oliver 600 0.7 .231 .278 .281 .342 .278 14
Actual 171 -0.2 .231 .293 .266 .276 .243 3.5

For a backup catcher, the biggest tasks are usually to be available to help with extra bullpen and side sessions for the pitching staff, excel at catching Sunday afternoon games after playing on Saturday night (when a manager traditionally doesn’t like to play a catcher twice in an 18 hour window), and playing good defense. Being a solid situational hitter can be a nice perk, but isn’t necessarily a requirement.

Holaday checks all those boxes. He’s proven to be durable, got positive grades on his defense both from scouts as well as his advanced defensive metrics. He never hit the disabled list, and wasn’t an automatic out at the plate.

But, that was about it. He had just six extra base hits all year in 171 plate appearances. Despite being a right-handed hitter, his wOBA was nearly 140 points better against right-handers as opposed to left-handers. Being good against like pitching in and of itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing even if it’s unusual (and his minor league splits vary from year to year as to what he’s better against). However, the larger issue is that the ideal scenario is to have your backup complement your starter, and Avila is a left-handed hitter that excels against right-handed pitching. Meaning when the Tigers faced a left-hander, they were limited in their offensive potential at the catcher spot.

Bryan Holaday 2015 Outlook

Contract Status: Pre-arb eligible
Free Agent ETA: 2019

Holaday is in a bit of a tough spot. He doesn’t appear to have the offensive profile to compete for a job as a starting catcher, which limits him to backup duty. And the Tigers have James McCann coming up behind him, who had a very good season in Triple-A Toledo. Holaday will enter the spring in 2015 in a competition to hold onto his job.

He has some things working for him; namely a rapport with the current staff, having served on the big league club in some capacity for the past few seasons, along with being strong defensively. In addition, when Avila hit the disabled list late in the season due to recurring concussion symptoms, manager Brad Ausmus almost exclusively stuck with Holaday, only turning to McCann when it simply became no longer practical to play Holaday every day. That’s quite a vote of confidence from the manager.

On the other hand, McCann likely has greater offensive potential, has consistently received grades of being capable of being a second-division regular at the big league level, and also profiles to complement Avila better than Holaday has offensively. That provides plenty of rationale to give McCann a shot, and Holaday will have a fight on his hands.

2014 Projections came from three different sources; ZiPS, Steamer, and Oliver, all publicly available via FanGraphs.com and presented for information purposes only. ZiPS projections come from Dan Szymborski, Steamer from Steamer Projections, a trio of independent academic researchers, and Oliver Projections from Brian Cartwright.

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