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Tigers: a breakout star at Catcher?

Losing James McCann was a massive blow to the Tigers this offseason. Last year the defensive-minded catcher ranked fourth in the American League with a 36.5 CS% in 112 starts behind the dish for Detroit. However, his lackluster .220 BA and mere eight home runs in 2018 are no reason to miss the former second-round pick. The offseason acquisitions of Bobby Wilson, Hector Sanchez, and Cameron Rupp all looked to fill in organizational roles, leaving two guys to man the crew in the Motor City.

 

2019 Depth Chart (Catcher):

  1. Grayson Greiner
  2. John Hicks

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Grayson Greiner- Drafted out of South Carolina in the third round of the 2014 draft, Greiner is valued for his strong arm and above-average defensive skills. At 6-foot-6, he has an unusual frame for a catcher, but his athleticism has kept him at the position since his college days. In 2018, the now-26-year-old hit .266 with four home runs in Triple-A Toledo before being called up to replace the injured John Hicks. Greiner’s ability to hit has been back and forth throughout his professional career with 2018 looking to be one of his better seasons in the upper-minor leagues. Although his struggles at the plate returned in his first major league season, a solid spring (.313/1 HR/.563 SLG) solidified his role as the Tigers’ backstop for 2019.

John Hicks- Hicks’ 2018 season was cut short after undergoing hip surgery in mid-August. He finished the year with a .260 average and nine home runs in 288 at-bats. One benefit of carrying Hicks as a backup catcher is his ability to play first base. However, with players such as Niko Goodrum and Ronny Rodriguez as other potential backups for Miguel Cabrera, Hicks will likely be limited to plate appearances as the backup catcher and possibly DH.

 

On the Outside Looking In: 

Although they didn’t crack the opening day roster, these players are one injury away from getting the call to Detroit.

Jake Rogers- In the blockbuster trade that sent Justin Verlander to Houston, the Tigers acquired a top-tier catching prospect in Rogers. His defense alone makes him stand out within the organization, receiving praise from fellow teammates Beau Burrows and Alex Faedo for his work behind the plate. Rogers will likely start the year in Double-A Erie but will be looking to make his way to Detroit this year.

Cameron Rupp- Acquired by the Tigers in early March, Rupp was one of many catchers competing for a spot on the opening day team. In 27 at-bats this spring, with both San Francisco and Detroit, Rupp hit .296 with no home runs. His season will start in Toledo, but his veteran presence might be called upon sooner rather than later.

Hector Sanchez- Another veteran acquisition, Sanchez’s career looks to be slowing down. The 29-year-old was released by the Giants after less than 30 games last season in Triple-A and his time off showed this spring. However, having that veteran presence is something all teams appreciate, and Sanchez is sure to provide that if he gets the chance.

Bobby Wilson- After being released by the Tigers this spring, Wilson resigned with them on a minor-league deal. This means Wilson’s 2019 season will start in Toledo. At 35, Wilson showed that he is still able to wear the tools of ignorance and will likely be the frontrunner if an injury occurs on the major-league team.

 

Down on the Farm:

While none of these players will likely reach the bigs this year, they are sure to be on Al Avila’s radar for the next few seasons.

Austin Athmann- Spent all of 2018 with Single A+ Lakeland, drafted in the 14th round of 2016 draft out of Minnesota

Joey Morgan- Spent all of 2018 with Single-A West Michigan, drafted in third round of 2017 draft out of Washington

Brady Policelli- Spent all of 2018 with Single-A West Michigan, drafted in the 13th round of 2016 draft out of Towson

Kade Scivicque- Spent 2018 with Lakeland, Erie, Toledo, and Gwinnett (Braves Triple-A), Drafted by Detroit in the fourth round of 2015 draft out of LSU, Traded to Braves in 2016 before returning to Tigers on minor league-deal in 2018

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Michigan and the Sweet Sixteen

Tigers: End of rebuild right around the Corner