With spring training winding down, we have seen several cuts and releases made by the Milwaukee Brewers in the last few days, both on the major league side and minor league side of camp. In a bit of a surprise departure from that sort of transaction, the Brewers announced earlier today via Twitter that they had brought a new player into the organization:
C Tyler Heineman has been acquired from Houston in exchange for a player to be named or cash. Heineman will report to minor-league camp.— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) March 26, 2017
Tyler Heineman, 25, was an 8th-round pick by the Houston Astros back in 2012 out of UCLA. He has spent the last five seasons steadily climbing the Astros’ organizational ladder, reaching AAA for the first time in 2015 and spending the entire year there at that level in 2016. Heineman owns a modest offensive track record, batting .283/.361/.399 across 1,543 plate appearances with 20 home runs while pairing a meager 10.4% strikeout rate with a solid 8.2% walk rate. The switch-hitter hasn’t enjoyed quite as much success at the plate at AAA as he did in the lower levels of the minors, however; in 481 plate appearances with Fresno over the last two seasons, Heineman has hit just .260/.344/.349 (86 wRC+) with 6 home runs.
While his offensive ability leaves a bit to be desired, Heineman is a terrific defender behind the plate. According to his Baseball-Reference page, Tyler has thrown out an astounding 41% of attempted base thieves during his minor league career. His blocking, throwing, and especially pitch framing have graded out as above-average during his time as a professional; during the last two seasons at AAA, he’s been valued at more than +25 runs on defense according to Baseball Prospectus’ all-encompassing Fielding Runs Above Average statistic. Heineman was rated as the top catcher available in the Rule 5 Draft according to KATOH, but was passed over when Houston left him unprotected last winter. He was not on the Astros’ 40 man roster and won’t immediately be added to Milwaukee’s, either.
Brewers’ GM Slingin’ David Stearns is obviously familiar with Tyler and his background from his time as Houston’s AGM and clearly felt compelled to make a minor move to bring him into the fold with Milwaukee. The Brewers have Manny Pina, Jett Bandy, and Andrew Susac all as backstops on the 40 man roster but little in the way of quality depth in the upper levels of the minors beyond that is likely what prompted the move. Heineman will report to minor league camp to finish out spring training and figures to begin the season at AAA.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and Baseball Prospectus