We start our second and final trip around the diamond by returning to the catcher position. First up is the new backup, John Bryan Holaday. This is the Bryan with two "A"'s in his last name, but only one in the first name he uses. Not to mention that the "h" is after the "o" in John, which he unfortunately discarded. My customized Tigers' spell-checker is upset, but it can learn.
Bryan is from Dallas, Texas. At 6 feet tall and 205 pounds he was not lost to football, and he is athletic. Holaday pitched and played shortstop in high school, as is typical for the best athlete on the team. He played third base at North Central Texas College, and led off at times. He moved to catcher after transferring to Texas Christian University. Though he earned the Johnny Bench Award for the top collegiate catcher in his senior season of 2010, he fell to the sixth round where the Tigers drafted him.
Having four years of college experience, the Tigers started Holaday at Lakeland in 2010. The most hopeful result was a .335 on-base percentage. He spent all of 2011 at Erie with results that would not draw your attention, except he is a catcher. The 2012 and 2013 seasons at Toledo have him pegged as a major-league catcher, of the backup variety.
The very small sample of major league action is encouraging. His Steamer projection is fine for a backup catcher, and has greater-than-replacement-player value. He toured with the Tigers Caravan this winter, and our very own Phil Coke's Brain landed an interview.
Keys to Success
Bryan needs to be used in situations where he can excel. As a right-handed hitter, he should be giving Avila a day off against southpaws. Holaday hit .290/.342/.435 against lefties in Toledo in 2013, and even better in 2012. Avila has a career .212/.306/.322 line against lefties. Holaday has caught 34% of attempted base thieves in the minors, so playing him against a running team is also wise. When Ausmus is looking to rest Avila these are the matchups to consider. Brayan Pena had a good season last year, but as a switch hitter was better from the left side and provided no platoon benefit. I doubt Ausmus will treat this as a full platoon, but if Holaday is used optimally he could beat his projections.
Holaday's OPS+ is an even 100 in his limited big-league career. This is exactly league average, and would be acceptable for a starting third baseman. If he can approach this production as a backup catcher, we can get excited.
Bryan Holaday is ready to head north with the team and spend the season in Detroit. With proper usage and a few breaks along the way, he will find favor with the fans.