Brayan Pena is about as far from flashy as they come. The Detroit Tigers‘ backup catcher has been around MLB since 2005 and has never secured a full-time position in the majors. He’s never hit more than six home runs in a season and isn’t particularly intimidating at the plate.
But one thing Pena does bring to the Tigers is an undeniable passion for the game. The first sign was when Pena absorbed a blow from Justin Smoak in the bottom of the 14th inning to defeat the Seattle Mariners in April. It shows when Pena runs — not trots — around the bases after a home run, and it shows in the beaming smile that projects from his face when he sets foot on the field.
Pena is a switch-hitter, which is pretty rare from a catcher. He’s not going to dazzle anyone at the plate, but he brings something to the team that his counterpart, Alex Avila, sorely lacks: a positive attitude and a little-train-that-could mentality.
Perhaps it has to do with the fact that Avila is struggling, but it seems like he’s often hanging his head and moping around, feeling the pressure of having his dad as the Assistant GM of the Tigers.
Pena, on the other hand, can often be seen encouraging teammates when they fall behind or have a rough day at the plate.
Pena has logged 14 hits in 51 at-bats this season, compared to Avila’s 20 hits in 112 at-bats. Their K/BB ratio is exactly the same. Pena has eight RBIs to Avila’s 10. On top of all of that, Pena is a pretty good defensive catcher. Avila calls a game extremely well, but is turning into a non-factor offensively, not to mention he seems one-dimensional at the plate even when he is doing well.
Perhaps the best way to use the two is to let Avila start games and look to get Pena more at-bats later in the game. Catcher is one of the most important defensive positions in the game, which makes Avila’s offensive ineptitude more acceptable, but he’s turning into an eyesore at the plate.