Yesterday the Toronto Blue Jays promoted rookie catcher Michael Ohlman to the major league roster. He started last night’s game against the Cleveland Indians and went 0-for-3 with a strikeout. Ohlman has a rather unusual track record, so let’s take a look and see what he offers.
Ohlman was originally drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 11th round in 2009 from high school in Bradenton, Florida. They went way over slot to sign him, spending $995,000 to buy him away from the University of Miami Hurricanes. For awhile this didn’t look so hot: he played poorly in 2010 and 2011 and 2012 started off as a disaster.
He suffered a shoulder injury during a spring training car accident, then drew a 50-game suspension for using a drug of abuse. Interestingly, when Ohlman got back on the field in the second half, he played very well for Low-A Delmarva, showing tremendously improved plate discipline and a much lower strikeout rate with a .304/.411/.456 line. This continued in 2013 when he hit .313/.410/.524 in High-A.
Ohlman stumbled badly in 2014 (.236/.310/.318 in Double-A) and ended up being traded to the Cardinals. He rebounded there, hitting .273/.356/.418 in ‘15 and .287/.344/.434 in ‘16.
He didn’t seem to have a future in St. Louis however, and signed with the Blue Jays as a free agent for 2017. He was hitting .246/.338/.594 for Triple-A Buffalo before his promotion.
Ohlman is a right-handed hitter, listed 6-5, 240, born December 14, 1990. Power is the calling card here: he’s quite strong and while generally pull-oriented in his approach, he’ll drive the ball for distance in any direction when he’s going well. His eye for the zone is erratic. He has bouts of over-aggressiveness and can be prone to strikeouts, but when he’s locked in he’ll take some walks as well.
His glove is nothing special and indeed the Cardinals moved him to first base in 2016. The Jays reversed that and moved him back to catching. He threw out just one of eight runners at Buffalo and is at just 26% for his career, but he’s mobile for his size and has steadily reduced his passed ball and error rates with experience. The glove is playable, if he hits enough.
Ohlman may very well hit enough. At age 26, he is entering the prime window for power production and peak performances. Keep a close eye on him.