Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

2017 TigsTools: Detroit Tigers Best Defensive Catcher

Catcher remains the most difficult and demanding position on the diamond. In addition to crouching for several hours each game, good backstops must block pitches in the dirt, learn their pitchers’ strengths and opposing hitters’ weakness, control the running game, and receive triple-digit fastballs and hellacious breaking balls without moving their glove too much. The Tigers don’t appear to have an everyday catcher in their system, but they have a handful of players with promising defensive skil

Best Defensive Catcher

1. John Hicks

2. Arvicent Perez

3. Austin Green

4. Elys Escobar

5. Grayson Greiner

 

The Tigers claimed Hicks off waivers last April largely because of his well-rounded defensive profile. He stands out most for his receiving, where he provides a big target for his pitchers, smothers anything in the dirt, and has proven to be above-average at pitch framing. He has an average arm, but his quick release and accuracy have helped him nab 46% of runners in his minor-league career

 

With 74 games played last year, Perez nearly doubled his previous career high, and he did so while hitting over .300 and displaying strong defensive tools. He’s shorter and more compact than Hicks, but he still has a good catcher’s frame, he’s adept and blocking pitches in the dirt, and he owns a strong, accurate arm.

 

Green is similar to Hicks in many ways. He’s also a 27-year-old backstop who excels at game calling and handling his pitching staff, but he slots in behind Hicks because he’s not quite as good at controlling the running game, though still average with a 31% caught stealing rate.

 

Escobar made his U.S. debut last season as a 19-year-old, and he continued to flash the defensive tools that have helped him stand out since he was signed as a 16-year-old. He’s got a big body, soft hands, and a strong arm that helped him wipe out 15 of 48 (31%) base stealers last year.

 

Greiner’s bounceback year was most impressive on the offensive side of things, but the massive backstop also made some positive improvements on defense. He remains impressively agile for his size, he has noticeably improved as a pitch framer, and he posted a career-best 44% CS rate in Erie last season.

 

Honorable Mention

Franklin Navarro

Brady Policelli

 

Navarro saw scant action last season, with just 25 games between Connecticut, West Michigan, and Lakeland, but he still showed some signs of being a potentially average defender.

 

Policelli became the second Towson Tiger ever drafted by Detroit (joining Casper Wells) when he was selected in the 13th round last year. He makes the list more for projection than current skills, as he’s an impressive athlete who also played shortstop and third base in college, but he needs refinement behind the plate.

 

Projection Kings

Jheyser Azuaje

Gresuan Silverio

 

Azuaje has garnered mentions for his defense since he signed with the Tigers in 2013, and like Escobar he showed off some of those tools in his U.S. debut last season, led by his strong arm that helped him catch 10 of 29 (34%) runners last year.

 

Silverio is the youngest player on this list, but the 18-year-old catcher had an impressive pro debut in the Dominican Summer League last season. He needs refinement, but he has a good arm and the skills to become a solid defender.



Why He Missed

Shane Zeile

 

The Tigers made Zeile their 5th round pick in 2014 with the hopes of him tapping into his natural athleticism and developing into a well-rounded defensive catcher. He has shown flashes, but he has hit the disabled list a handful of times in just the last two seasons, and he hasn’t had much time to turn his potential into actual on-field skills.


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