So yesterday I posted the Cleveland Indians Top 20 Prospects for 2018 list. Response was more or less as anticipated, but there’s one guy I didn't write about that I absolutely should have written about: catcher Eric Haase.
First there’s this tweet from a reader.
No Eric Haase in top 20? I'm very surprised by that.— Justin (@JL_Baseball) January 4, 2018
I’m surprised you didn’t even give his name a slight mention during your writeup. Yes I understand you commented you’re writing a solo (I would assume sleeper) piece on him but still that’s a bit of a snub. If he wasn’t behind Mejia he would get a lot more recognition. Yes he’s age 25 and just having AAA taste last year, but every single year his numbers have steadily improved and now he’s starting to display some power as well. Plus catcher tend to develop later than normal position players. From what I’ve gathered his success is hindered by the defensive side of things but is also showing steady improvement on his arm. I personally think with the right Team, Opportunity, and Ballpark he could be a Starting Cather with Upside.
Yep, yep, yep. Haase is definitely a sleeper but it got away from me in the haste to publish an article that was already several days late. So let’s remedy that.
Haase was a seventh round pick back in 2011 from high school in Dearborn, Michigan. He was well-known to scouts but considered rather raw and more likely to accept his scholarship to The Ohio State University than to sign out of high school. The Indians changed his mind with $580,000.
He showed power right away, including slugging .514 in the Midwest League in 2014, but had issues with contact and defense behind the plate. He hit just .208/.265/.438 in Double-A in 2016 but his ‘17 season was much more impressive, .258/.349/.574 repeating the Eastern League with 26 homers, 44 walks, and 116 strikeouts in 333 at-bats.
Haase’s offensive profile hasn’t changed substantially on the surface: he’s a power-based hitter, but there have been some subtle changes over the years as he’s shown a stronger tendency to hit for power to all fields rather than just pull the ball. The charts show this and Baseball America picked up on it a couple of months ago,
“He’s worked really hard the last few years with his catching as well as his hitting,” Akron manager Mark Budzinski told Ohio.com earlier this year. “He really bought into what (hitting coach) Johnny Narron and (bench coach) Omir Santos taught about being ready for the fastball and adjusting to everything else and taking it through the middle of the field. It’s paid off for him.”
There has also been slow but steady improvement on defense, with substantial reduction in his passed ball and error rates as he’s cleaned up his footwork and reactions over the last two seasons. He’s got a good arm too and caught 37% of runners last year.
To sum up, we have a power bat who has transitioned successfully to the high minors while making enough progress to stay behind the plate and showing a good work ethic. Negatives include age (25) and the need to prove himself in Triple-A, but he’s clearly a sleeper type who could contribute something quite positive in the next year or two.