DETROIT — The Tigers have a simple philosophy on Day Two of the draft — pick players with major-league potential without worrying about needs or positions.
So, while their pick of Grayson Greiner doesn’t mean they are worried about Alex Avila, they do think they might have uncovered a third-round gem.
At 6’6", Greiner is exceptionally big for a catcher, and his skills at South Carolina have drawn comparisons to Avila’s career in the SEC. While the Tigers picked him with the 99th selection, he was rated in the top 75 by Baseball America after spending last summer catching for Team USA.
"We know how well he can handle pitchers and what kind of defensive catcher he is, because we were able to see him catch some of the best college pitchers out there with Team USA," Tigers scouting director David Chadd said during Friday night’s game. "That’s his biggest plus — we know we’re getting a guy who can catch and throw at a high level."
Greiner wasn’t drafted out of high school, but started his college career with a bang. As a freshman, he was the starting catcher as the Gamecocks advanced to the College World Series championship series, and he has grown offensively through each of his three seasons. This year, he hit .333/.405/.523 for the Gamecocks, including a walk-off grand slam to cap a ninth-inning rally against Tennessee.
Chadd said he doesn’t expect Greiner to be a big home-run threat in the major leagues, but sees him as a contact hitter with power in the gaps. Between his three years in the SEC and his national-team experience, Greiner will be heading into the professional ranks with more polish than a typical draft pick.
"We definitely think he’s going to be ahead of most of the guys that we take," Chadd said. "We’ll see how he looks when we get him, but he is certainly going to be further along the learning curve."
Greiner was the first of eight Tiger picks on Day Two, all of whom came out of the college ranks. Three of the picks were starting pitchers — Vanderbilt’s Adam Ravenelle, Virginia’s Artie Lewicki and Dallas Baptist’s Paul Voelker. Ravenelle, the eighth Commodore taken by the Tigers in the last four years, was a reliever in college, but Chadd expects him to start in the minors.
"Every year, I get asked if we’re planning on converting every pitcher we take to the bullpen, but that’s not the plan," Chadd joked. "I’m not sure why Ravenelle was in the pen at Vandy, but with his stuff, we definitely see him as a starter, and Lewicki is going to stay a starter. If any of them get moved, it might be Voelker, because his stuff might play better out of the pen, but that will be down the road."
The Tigers also drafted one of the most memorable names of the draft, taking South Carolina third baseman Joey Pankake.
"Yes, it is pronounced the same as the things you put syrup on," Chadd confirmed. "He’s a guy that we like because he’s got a good bat, with gap power, and he can do a lot of different things."
Pankake was drafted as a pitcher out of high school, but played shortstop, third base and left field for the Gamecocks, and was the leadoff hitter when he and Greiner led USC to the College World Series in 2012. He slipped in the draft this season due to his struggles after moving to shortstop, but the Tigers like his versatility.
Detroit also selected a second catcher, UCLA’s Shane Zeile, and Kansas State centerfielder Ross Kivett, as well as one genuine reliever, Ole Miss closer Josh Laxer.