Good catchers are a scarce resource. Due to the battering that catchers take and how ridiculously difficult the job of being a catcher is, there aren’t many who become good enough to make a difference at any level, let alone turn into an impact player at the MLB level. It becomes even harder the taller a player gets. Grayson Greiner, the Detroit Tigers’ top catching prospect, is a bit of an oddity due to his size. He is a veritable giant among catchers, standing at 6’6.
When the Tigers took Greiner out of South Carolina in the third round of the 2014 draft, the common thought was that they had gotten a steal. He has always been known as a defense-first catcher, which comes as a bit of a surprise. This is entirely because of his height. Tall catchers have a reputation as being poor defenders — and it’s not entirely undeserved — with cramped actions behind the plate and elongated release times. Greiner, though, has always received good marks for his glove work and is even praised for an above-average arm.
He recognizes that his defense is the best part of his game.
“Since I started catching, I’ve always put a lot of emphasis on my defense. A lot of people think that catcher is the most important position on the field, so I try to be flawless back there. I put a lot of time into working my craft back there, so offense is just a bonus to me. As far as being a catcher goes, I want to be perfect and help my pitchers out as much as possible. I will always be a defense-first catcher in my mind.”
Just because he considers offense to be a bonus doesn’t mean that he has none. He proved that in 2016 with a spectacular offensive season, hitting .312/.385/.367 with High-A Lakeland. That figures to a 126 wRC+, a substantial amount above average (especially for a catcher). He followed that performance with another extraordinary stint in Double-A with the Erie SeaWolves. This one was nearly twice as long and featured much better power numbers. Greiner hit .288/.320/.462 with seven home runs in 225 plate appearances. This totaled to an offensive production 11 percent above average, per wRC+.
He also showed more power this season than in years previous. Greiner explained how he made that happen in an interview with BYB last year.
I realized I needed to make some changes, so I added a little leg kick in my swing. ... I’ve always had the power, I just struggled to put it in games. Once I got some confidence in my swing, I could start looking for pitches to drive a little bit more. Towards the end of the season I started putting up a little better power numbers and hopefully I can continue to build on that.
Unfortunately, Greiner’s excellent 2016 season doesn’t stand up to deeper scrutiny. His time in a Flying Tigers jersey was the more unrealistic of the two. Fueled by an unsustainable .410 BABIP, Greiner’s numbers were rather inflated in a small sample. His tenure in Erie was closer to reality, with a .351 BABIP and a 24.4 percent strikeout rate.
Fortunately, there isn’t anything to prove that his gains in power are also a mirage. His new-found power seems to be all to the pull side, as six of his seven home runs came to left field. Only one of his bombs came near the center of the diamond, a monster moonshot to left-center. While he is able to poke hits to all three fields, it would be nice if he were able to develop a little more power the other way. At that point, though, it’s getting a little nitpicky.
Jacob’s Scouting Report:
Projected Team: Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens
While he may not have raised his ceiling enough to be considered a future starter, Greiner seems a sure bet to at least get a cameo in the major leagues at some point. Right now, he looks like he has the potential to be a decent backup catcher with good defense and a Saltalamacchia-esque batter with a lower average and occasional pop. However, if he continues to show an increase in power like this year, he may be able to elevate himself enough to get a regular catching job. He will likely form some sort of catching platoon with John Hicks in Triple-A Toledo until one of them is called up as an injury replacement or when rosters expand in September.
Grayson Greiner in throwing drills. pic.twitter.com/Cfg4oUI4DH— Evan Woodbery (@evanwoodbery) February 16, 2017
Big Grayson Greiner takes some cuts. #Tigers pic.twitter.com/q43NNgyVrw— Evan Woodbery (@evanwoodbery) February 14, 2017
Video courtesy of 2080 Baseball