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Rays Top 50 Prospects: No. 39, C Brett Sullivan

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Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler

With rankings 40 to 50 behind us (noted and linked at bottom), we leap into the 30s with a guy who’s had to switch positions but has definitely made the most of his abilities at the new position.

No.39, C Brett Charles Sullivan, 23 yrs old

Born: Feb 22nd, 1994 in Stockton, CA

Height/Weight: 6’1” 195 lbs Bats/Throws: L/R

Signed: by the Rays after being selected in the 17th round of the 2015 MLB draft

Twitter handle: @Brettsully

Twitter profile statement: “Ball player in the tampa bay rays organization”

Baseball America Rankings

  • N/A

*Ranked well among Fangraphs’ Chris Mitchell’s KATOH in May 2017 with a 1.5 rating (tied with notables like Andrew Knizer of the Cardinals and Dan Janssen of the Blue Jays)

DRB Writers ranking

  • High: 37
  • Low: 44

Brett Sullivan: Abilities

  • Athleticism (could play many positions)
  • Average power with possibility of adding more
  • Above-average Speed for a catcher
  • Quick bat that rarely strikes out
  • Raw power
  • Abilities notes: The 2017 season was Sullivan’s first in which he failed to manage at least ten home runs. He still isn’t walking much, but his continued strong performance vs RHP in HiA (.308/.335/.464) was encouraging, especially as it was paired with a .276/.317/.461 performance vs LHP (76 AB). That was an improvement on 2016, when he only managed .254/.282/.361 (119 AB) against them in an environment (Midwest League) that was friendlier for hitters than what he faced in the FSL in 2017.

Joined the Rays by way of....

  • The 2015 MLB draft (508th overall), when the Rays selected him as a second baseman after he was Pacific’s shortstop, which tells you something about his athleticism.

Latest Transaction: assigned to Montgomery from Charlotte Stone Crabs August 2, 2017

Note - It was nice to see Sullivan’s bat dominate enough to help earn him the in-season promotion to AA, where he was able to get a feel for what to expect in 2018.

Facts, Honors, and Awards

  • Older brother was selected in the 2015 MLB draft by the White Sox and his dad played baseball and football at Sacramento State.
  • Don’t let the catcher’s position make you think Sully’s a slow poke as he managed 18 SB in 2017 and was only CS 4 times.
  • Named to FSL post-season all-star team in 2017, and made the midseason all-star in the MWL in 2016 and in the FSL in 2017.
  • Although he’s hoping his baseball career carries him, Sully’s got an entrepreneurial spirit as he’s part-owner of a dog products company, @BarkleysBag, which notes itself on Twitter asSingle ingredient center cut raw beef marrow bones for your furry best friends! Our house to doghouse! Currently shipping to CA, AZ & NV”,

Stats

Brett Sullivan 2017

GP 107
GP 107
PA 441
AB 418
Hits 123
Doubles 24
Triples 5
Home Runs 8
RBI 64
SB (CS) 18 (4)
AVG 0.294
OBP 0.324
SLG 0.433
OPS 0.757
BB% 3.9%
SO% 9.1%
ISO 0.139
BAbip 0.308
wOBA 0.346
wRC+ 119

Stats Notes: Pacific State stats are available here. Yes, the OPS drop (to .628) once he reached AA should be cause for at least some concern, but the .054 ISO and 81 wRC+ that went along with it were more striking. The jump to AA is often the hardest one for a hitter, but most have faith in Sullivan’s bat and its ability to make the required adjustments in 2018.

Interesting Comparison: J.T. Realmuto

  • Although Realmuto (also 6’1”, weighs in at 210 vs Sullivan’s 190) bats right-handed, there are similarities between these players. The most striking similarity is how well they run despite being catchers, with Realmuto managing 13 SB in HiA (21 yrs old) while Sullivan managed 18 this season (23 yrs old). But there’s more!
  • Another similarity is that both were selected as middle-infielders with intent to move to catcher, with Realmuto being selected after playing shortstop in high school by the Marlins in the 3rd rd of the 2010 draft.
  • And finally, Realmuto also had some struggles at the plate during his first taste of AA, (much like Sullivan) although his was a complete season’s worth. He continued to put up a sub 100 wRC+ for the second straight season (90 in 2012 in HiA, and 93 in 2013 in AA), but really turned things up thereafter with a 132 wRC+ during his second AA season.
  • Does Sullivan’s short taste of AA pitching suggest he is poised to make that large a jump in wRC+ in 2018? It’s unlikely, but some progress continuing at that level should be expected, with a good chance it exceeds 100 by a decent margin.

Notes for 2018 and beyond

Since Sullivan’s bat gets rave reviews, I’ll try to touch on how well he’s performed behind the plate to provide some insight on how well he may do going forward.

Here’s what we know: he improved his passed ball rate from 1 every 25 innings to 1 every 37 innings, which is a significant improvement. He also cut his errors to 4 over 569 innings of work — down from 10 in 560 innings. His caught stealing rate, however, from from 38% in 2016 to 32% in 2017 and clearly represents an area needing improvement.

To put the caught stealing rate in context, Nick Ciuffo, with whom he shared time in AA for 2017, threw out 60% of base runnersin 2016, also in the FSL. David Rodriguez, playing in the FSL in 2017, also had a caught stealing rate of 60%.

It’s hard to evaluate the difference between them in framing and in other receiving skills, but the general consensus is that both Ciuffo and Rodriguez are well ahead of Sullivan on both counts. It remains to be seen whether he’s able to make headway there and perform well enough to earn a shot at MLB ahead of them.

And that’s if he holds off charges from Chris Betts, Rene Pinto, and Ronaldo Hernandez, who are all highly rated.

The point is that although Sullivan’s performances behind the plate have received great reviews and he’s working hard to put himself in the conversation for a call-up down the road, he’ll need to get every ounce of potential out of his bat to get there, because he’s facing stiff competition among the Rays ranks.

That being said, Sully is also versatile enough to earn a backup position ahead of others if the team is looking to have options at various positions. He can handle 3B/1B, so a bench/backup role may be his calling to getting playing time in MLB. DRB writers have faith in the bat, though, as noted by all writers having him in the 37 to 44 range, the tightest range of rankings yet on our top 50!

With the expectation that he’ll spend all of 2018 in AA, the majors are still pretty far in his future, but with Wilson Ramos’ contract expiring after 2018 and no clear long-term catcher set to take that role for 2019 and beyond, he’ll get a chance to prove himself worthy of a look at some point in 2019.

Brett Sullivan: Spotlight Videos

Outstanding and as recent video of Sullivan from the AFL in 2017 here, courtesy Baseball Census,

Here’s the thing about Sullivan’s lack of in-game power so far,

And if that doesn’t come through, he’ll always have the doubles power,

Recap and links of previously listed DRB Top 50 Rays Prospects