The Tigers announced that they have claimed catcher Mario Feliciano off waivers from the Brewers. Outfielder Bligh Madris was designated for assignment in a corresponding move. Feliciano had been designated for assignment last week.
Feliciano, 24, was selected 75th overall by the Brewers in 2016 and has had some prospect shine in his time in the professional ranks so far. Baseball America has considered him to be one of the top 30 Brewer prospects in each season since that draft, characterizing him as a bat-first catcher. He got as high as #6 at BA, on the heels of a 2019 season where he hit 19 home runs in High-A.
After the minor league were cancelled in 2020, Feliciano was added to Milwaukee’s 40-man roster but has struggled since then. A shoulder impingement in 2021 limited him to just 39 minor league games and a single contest in the big leagues. In 2022, he was frequently recalled and optioned but only got into a pair of MLB contests. In 77 Triple-A games, he hit .274/.326/.386 for a wRC+ of 90. After a couple of disappointing seasons, the Brewers designated him for assignment last week.
For the Tigers, their primary catcher in 2022 was Tucker Barnhart, who reached free agency at season’s end. That left them with Eric Haase and Jake Rogers as the only two backstops on their 40-man roster. Haase has been solid at the plate the past two years but his defense is graded poorly behind it, pushing him into spending some time at first base and left field. Rogers, meanwhile, missed all of 2022 due to Tommy John surgery. Given the state of the club’s catching corps, it makes sense for them to take a flier on Feliciano, who still has one option year remaining. He can serve as minor league depth until he earns his way into a larger role.
As for Madris, 27 in February, he was drafted by the Pirates in 2017 and was with them until recently. He’s hit well in the upper levels of the minors over the past couple of seasons but wasn’t able to maintain that in a brief MLB debut. In 104 Triple-A games last year, he hit .272/.352/.434 for a wRC+ of 111. This year, he took it up a notch to .294/.366/.482 and a wRC+ of 124.
That was enough to get him an audition in the big leagues, getting into 39 games for the Pirates this year. He hit just .177/.244/.265 in that period, however, getting designated for assignment in September. He was claimed by the Rays, who kept him in Triple-A until they, too, designated him, which led to another claim by the Tigers.
Madris will now head into DFA limbo for the third time in the past few months. The Tigers will have one week to trade him or pass him through waivers. He still has a pair of option years remaining and could appeal to clubs looking for a bit of extra outfield depth.
Curt Hogg of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel announced Feliciano’s claim prior to the official announcement.