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MLB draft 2016: Surveying the Tigers' minor league catcher depth

The Tigers have a host of solid defenders behind the plate in their farm system, but few with any high-end upside.

Emily Waldon

The 2016 MLB draft is fast approaching, so it's high time we start ramping up our coverage of this much-ballyhooed (not really) event. Before we start profiling the prospects who could be on the Detroit Tigers' radar for the No. 9 overall pick, we need to survey what currently lies in the team's farm system. Not every minor leaguer will be analyzed, but even those with a modicum of major league upside will make an appearance. First, the catchers.

Triple-A Toledo

Miguel Gonzalez (25) - R/R and John Hicks (26) - R/R

Both of the Tigers' Triple-A catchers deserve a mention here, but neither will be pushing James McCann or Jarrod Saltalamacchia for playing time in 2016. Gonzalez came up through the Chicago White Sox farm system, and made a brief appearance with their parent club in 2013. He shuttled between Double- and Triple-A in both 2013 and 2014, and signed with the Tigers as a free agent prior to the 2015 season. Meanwhile, Hicks was claimed off waivers and stashed on the Tigers' 40-man roster earlier this season while McCann was on the disabled list. A former Mariner, Hicks got his cup of coffee for 17 games in 2015.

Both Gonzalez and Hicks are defense-first catchers who are probably best served in their current roles. They can provide solid injury insurance when needed, but don't have the offensive upside to hold down a backup catcher job.

Double-A Erie

Austin Green (26) - R/R

Another defense-first catcher, Green is a homegrown product. He was drafted by the Tigers in the 13th round of the 2013 MLB draft, where he rose quickly through their lower minor league ranks. Green hit .263/.306/.432 for Advanced-A Lakeland in 2014, but his offensive numbers (notably, his power) have cratered since arriving in Erie in 2015. TigsTown's Chris Brown rated him as the best defensive catcher in the Tigers' farm system this year, praising his catch-and-throw abilities. Had the Tigers not acquired Bobby Wilson toward the end of spring training, Green may have been the one to replace McCann when he hit the disabled list earlier this year.

Advanced-A Lakeland

Grayson Greiner (23) - R/R

The Tigers were hoping they could continue their pipeline of homegrown SEC catchers when they drafted Greiner out of the University of South Carolina in 2014, but the former Gamecock hasn't lived up to his billing as a potential two-way catcher yet. After a solid debut at Single-A West Michigan in 2014 (.839 OPS in 104 plate appearances), Greiner was challenged with a promotion to Lakeland in his first full season of professional ball last year. He bottomed out, hitting just .183/.254/.250 in 343 plate appearances.

Things are off to a better start in 2016, though. Greiner is hitting a robust .295 with a .368 on-base percentage this year, but his power has yet to catch up. Scouts aren't sure that he will ever develop much home run pop from his 6'6 frame, but all that length doesn't seem to get in the way of his defensive abilities.

Kade Scivicque (23) - R/R

Another SEC product, Scivicque was selected out of LSU in the fourth round of the 2015 draft. Scivicque didn't hit as well as Greiner in his pro debut last season, but comes with a similar pedigree as a player who can hold his own defensively while potentially providing some offensive upside. He threw out 50 percent of would-be base stealers in 2015, a huge number considering most minor league pitchers aren't all that adept at controlling the running game. Both he and Greiner profile as potential major league backups who will go as far as their bats take them, but probably won't hit for enough power to hold down a starting job.

Single-A West Michigan

Arvicent Perez (22) - R/R

Whitecaps fans are used to hearing Perez's name by now, as the young Venezuelan has appeared on their roster in each of the past three seasons. Usually, that's a bad thing for a minor leaguer, but Perez had a monster 2014 season as a 20-year-old, impressing the Tigers' brass enough to jump straight from the Gulf Coast League to full-season ball. He put up excellent numbers in 15 games with the Whitecaps that season, but his bat came crashing back to earth in 2015.

This season, things have gotten somewhat better. He is hitting .250/.286/.333 in 65 plate appearances, but is still searching for his first home run of the season. MLB Pipeline ranked Perez as the Tigers' No. 28 prospect heading into the season, citing his "superior catch-and-throw skills" and plus arm as reasons to be excited. With a lot of similar depth ahead of him on the Tigers' minor league depth chart, Perez will need to up his offensive numbers if he is to fulfill his major league promise.

Shane Zeile (22) - R/R

The nephew of former major league catcher Todd Zeile, Shane comes with the requisite smarts and plus makeup to squeeze every ounce of potential out of his physical abilities. Scouts have noted that Zeile's skills were a bit raw coming out of UCLA in 2014, but he appears to have made some strides this season. His batting average isn't all that impressive at .235 in 120 plate appearances, but he leads the Whitecaps with three home runs and has a robust .213 ISO.

However, power is Zeile's one tool that scouts aren't so sure about. TigsTown's Mark Anderson tagged him with a 30 grade in early 2015, so it will be interesting to see how his bat progresses as he moves up the minor league ladder. Zeile is a capable defender, and some scouts have praised his ability to fill in at a couple infield positions as well. His big league future is behind the plate, though, and he has the potential to be a second-division starter at his absolute peak.