Detroit Tigers Spring Training Preview: Breaking Down Reserve Catching Options

Detroit Tigers

Aug 16, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Detroit Tigers catcher Alex Avila against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Tigers catcher Alex Avila returns to the organization after spending a season with the Chicago White Sox. Here’s a look at Detroit’s other catching options.

Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila has remade the bench this offseason.

Veterans Casey McGehee and Erick Aybar left via free agency, while Anthony Gose was designated for assignment.

One other notable change will be behind the dish.

James McCann remains the starter, but the 26-year-old will have a different deputy in 2017.

Like McGehee and Aybar, Jarrod Saltalamacchia also hit the open market and ended up signing elsewhere.

The veteran capped off his Detroit career by hitting just .171 with a .284 on-base percentage in 92 games.

While Saltalamacchia had a tendency for going down on strikes (35.6 strike out percentage), he did provide some pop.

In 292 plate appearances, the reserve mashed 12 home runs while contributing 38 RBI and 30 runs scored.

All told, his ISO finished at .175 while the backstop’s wRC+ checked in at 69.

Saltalamacchia will be replaced by a familiar face in Alex Avila.

The longtime Tiger spent 2016 in Chicago, where he logged a 1.1 WAR, a .160 ISO and a 104 wRC+ in 57 games for the White Sox.

What’s more, the veteran posted a .359 on-base percentage while smacking seven home runs.

Considering he was Detroit’s lone Major League signing, Avila will probably open the season as McCann’s backup.

However, he isn’t the only reserve catching option the Tigers have in camp.

In addition to Avila, here Detroit’s other reserve backstops.

Sep 7, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners catcher John Hicks (6) throws to first for an out in the fifth inning against the Texas Rangers at Safeco Field. Texas won 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 7, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners catcher John Hicks (6) throws to first for an out in the fifth inning against the Texas Rangers at Safeco Field. Texas won 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

John Hicks
Age: 27
Hits: Right-Handed
Major League Experience: 18 Games

A former fourth-round pick of the Seattle Mariners in 2011, Hicks was claimed off waivers from the Minnesota Twins late last April.

Still just 27-years-old, the Detroit Tigers may have found a long-term contributor.

Hicks initially appeared in 14 games with Detroit’s Double-A affiliate in Erie.

In 49 at-bats for the SeaWolves, the right-handed hitter turned in a .388 batting average and a .936 OPS. He also added seven runs scored, four RBI and three extra-base hits.

A promotion to Toledo soon followed.

Overall on the season, Hicks hit .310 with a .358 on-base percentage.

He also slugged .480 while also chipping in with 47 RBI, 46 RBI, 23 doubles, 10 home runs, four stolen bases and a triple.

The former Mariner also threw out 38% of would-be base stealers across all levels.

Serving as Detroit’s third catcher, the backstop appeared in one game for Detroit down the stretch, collecting a double and a run scored in a September 10th loss to Baltimore.

With Avila in town, Hicks seems likely to once again play the role of third catcher for the Tigers.

Austin Green
Age: 26
Hits: Right-Handed
Major League Experience: None

Austin Green will head to Major League Spring Training with Detroit for the third consecutive season in 2017.

The catcher was drafted in the 13th round of the 2013 draft by the Tigers after playing for the University of San Diego.

So far, the 26-year-old has reached Double-A, where he has spent the last two seasons.

Playing for the SeaWolves, the backstop owns a .248 batting average and a .639 OPS.

He’s also added 56 RBI, 42 runs scored, 23 doubles, seven home runs and two triples.

Detroit Tigers

Feb 28, 2015; Lakeland, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers catcher Grayson Greiner (72) poses during Photo day at Joker Merchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Grayson Greiner
Age: 24
Hits: Right-Handed
Major League Experience: None

Greiner, who recently ranked 22nd on Motor City Bengals’ list of the top Detroit Tigers players, could have conceivably been the franchise’s third catcher this year.

Had Avila not signed with Detroit, Hicks would have probably been the leading candidate to take over as James McCann’s top backup.

The prospect split the season between Advanced-A Lakeland, Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo. He made his Mud Hens debut late in the season, seeing time in just one game.

However, he’s likely the next in line after Hicks if the Tigers are in need of a catcher.

Over the span of 91 contests last season, the backstop hit .293 with a .424 slugging percentage.

He also added 43 RBI, 34 runs scored, 15 doubles, seven home runs, three triples and a stolen bases.

The former third-round pick threw out 33% of base runners last season, including nabbing 44% of would-be base stealers at the Double-A level.

Miguel Gonzalez
Age: 26
Hits: Right-Handed
Major League Experience: Five Games

A minor league veteran with five years of experience at Triple-A, Gonzalez has been serving as a depth option for Detroit dating back to the 2015 season.

In 60 games last season, the 26-year-old threw out 40% of base stealers for Lloyd McClendon’s team in Toledo.

Gonzalez also contributed a 78 wRC+ while tallying a career-high 33 RBI.

The former Chicago White Sox player also added 17 runs scored, 12 doubles and a pair of home runs. He batted .243 with an OPS that came in at .625.

This article originally appeared on