Debuting: Brett Nicholas
It’s Maz Day! Go ahead and predict the first ever five home run game for his debut. Have unreasonable expectations and hopes for any player, let alone a 20-year-old. But he’s not the only player who received the call today, and given I already wrote all about Nomar Mazara here, I’ll focus on the lesser known of the two.
Brett Nicholas, the Rangers injury replacement for Robinson Chirinos, is something of a veteran for a minor league call-up. At 27 years old, Nicholas has two full Triple-A seasons under his belt. Over six years in minor league ball the University of Missouri product has put up good offensive numbers with a .275/.340/.418 career slashline. He has displayed some pop with the bat, knocking 43 home runs and 71 doubles/triples over the past three years. Long an issue for him, a year ago Nicholas was able to cut his K-rate from 22.8% to 18%. A lefty hitter, he may see an overshift at some point given his pull-heavy spray chart on grounders (this is significantly more balanced when looking at balls hit in the air):
Eventually this could pose a problem for him, especially given his groundball heavy tendencies – Nicholas hit the ball on the ground on just over 50% of his batted balls a year ago. However, big league teams typically don’t adjust based on scouting reports from the minors so it may be a while before shifts come into play. It’s the same reason Joey Gallo kept seeing pitches down and away until big leaguers found the same up and in hole that many Texas League pitchers had realized a year before.
Having never seen him myself, I asked Michael Tepid of Lone Star Ball about the glove. He described it to me as solid and much improved over the past couple of years as he has spent more time focusing on catching, as opposed to first base where he spent the majority of his time in the lower levels. You can see the improvement in the numbers. In 2014, his first season as primarily a catcher, Nicholas gunned 18 of 61 attempted base stealers (a 29.5% rate). In 2015, he nailed 15 of 40 (37.5%). In 48 games behind the dish a year ago, the Phoenix native committed just two errors and allowed only two passed balls.
The overall offensive profile labels Nicholas as a decent hitter. He has some power but doesn’t show plus in-game. He strikes out but not at a massive rate. He’ll walk if it’s given to him but not at an exciting rate (6.2% in 2015). He should be able to hold his own at a major league plate but you won’t see a Trevor Story debut. Defensively, much of the same. By the numbers, Brett Nicholas may not have a plus tool, but also doesn’t have a glaring weakness. As a backup catcher for the next two plus months, that should be enough.