Remember in 2008 when Kyle Skipworth was drafted #6 overall and was being touted as the Marlins backstop of the future? Well, that day is here and still, Skipworth is trying to prove himself to be a serviceable catcher for the team that drafted him and signed him with a $2.3M bonus.
Meanwhile, Rob Brantly has been firing his way through the Tigers farm system, and upon his arrival in a trade last summer, has claimed the club’s spot as its starting catcher.
Sometimes predictions have a funny way of working out. Baseball America rated Skipworth as the Marlins’ #7 prospect overall (Giancarlo Stanton was ranked #2, right behind Cameron Maybin). Skipworth’s bat was expected to get him into the big leagues by about this time, but it is his hitting that has dropped him down the charts. In fact, it almost seems that his glove behind the plate is the only thing that will get him some time with the big club if things go as planned this spring.
Brantly was drafted in the 3rd round, 100 overall, by the Detroit Tigers back in 2010 and it is his bat, not his glove, that has garnered attention and landed him in Miami as the starting catcher. With his ability to spray the ball, and generate a little pop, Brantly has a serviceable bat to get into the lineup each day. His glove and defensive skills are solid and look to improve under Redmond’s tutelage. His game calling has been much praised as has been his ability to handle his pitching staff with confidence.
It is a strong bet that Brantly will resume starting duties and it is even something he has grown into. But for the Marlins to have a productive 2008 draft, they would need for Skipworth to stick with the team at some point this year. Maybe he breaks with the team after Spring Training, or maybe he spends some time down at AAA and gets called up. One thing is for sure, Brantly has leaped ahead of him and so has possibly J.T. Realmuto, a catching prospect who was converted to catching. Getting time with Mike Redmond will surely make all of the catchers better but it will boil down to the ability to control things behind the plate, getting calls for their young staff, and maintaining the game plan on the field in calling pitches. Rob Brantly has that ability right now, but can Kyle Skipworth ever get to that point? Watch Spring Training closely and keep an eye on Skipworth to see what kind of value he brings to the team because it is decision time for Skipworth and his future with the Marlins is at stake.