Grayson Greiner: Baseball’s Latest 6’6 Catcher

Grayson Greiner: Baseball’s Latest 6’6 Catcher

Tyson Ross, who stands in at 6’6, has looked down upon every catcher that has waltzed their way towards the mound for the proverbial mound meeting. When Ross signed with the Tigers for a one year/$1.8MM pact last December, hence becoming one of Grayson Greiner’s new teammates, he lost the benefit of feeling that superiority tall people often impose towards people of smaller stature. Wait, that’s just me? Well, carry on. Greiner, a 6-foot-6 behemoth, is baseball’s tallest catcher since Pete Koegel appeared in five games behind the dish for the 1972 Philadelphia Phillies (who also stood 6-and-a-half feet tall).

Greiner was drafted by Detroit in the 3rd round of the 2014 MLB draft, signing for a $529,400 signing bonus. After struggling quite a bit in his first full professional season in 2015 at the High-A level (he hit to the tune of a .183/.254/.250 slash line), he hit .237/.320/.427 in 2017 at Double-A and Triple, and then last year in Triple-A he hit .266/.350/.405. He would also spend some time in the major leagues, primarily catching while John Hicks played first base during Miguel Cabrera’s absence. He finished his debut season with a .219/.328/.281 slash line across 116 plate appearances, boosting his overall numbers with a 14.7 BB%. It may have been a product of hitting lower in the order, where he received 96 of his 116 PA’s in the 7th and 8th hole, but McCutchen with the 2012 Pirates (as well as other studies, such as this one by Jeff Sullivan) suggest that lineup protection may not exist, and if it does, it seems to only result in a slight uptick in walks. But Greiner has posted double digit walk rates over the past two seasons, indicating it could be more of a skill rather than having weak hitters behind him.

This year, Greiner has three hits in 27 at bats, and has hit .195/.297/.252 in 145 plate appearances between 2018 and 2019 so far. Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projection system projects Greiner for 1.6 WAR between this year and 2021, as most of Greiner’s projected value is tied to his ability to be a solid defensive catcher, as he posted a bonkers (for a player his height) 27.4 Fielding Runs Above Average in 2017 and had a +10.7 FRAA last year between the major leagues and Triple-A. For a large man, he is very athletic, moves well and has a quick release. His FRAA are also similar to another catcher in the Tiger’s organization, who is lauded for his defensive chops; Jake Rogers, who posted a +29.3 FRAA in Double-A last year. We may have criminally underrated Greiner’s defense, who was projected as more of an average defender when drafted and up until 2016-2017 when more people started to take note of Greiner within the industry because how can you overlook a 6’6, 210~ pound catcher? Nowadays he’s closer to 240 on the scale, so if his bat never develops much more and has to move off of catcher, a first baseman who hits like a weak utility player isn’t going to end up more than organizational depth.

Greiner already has exceeded expectations by becoming only the third catcher in major league history (since 1900) to stand in at 6’6. If he can develop his bat a bit more to where his OPS is closer to .700, he may just end up as a low-end regular, someone who finds starting jobs on middling to last place ball clubs. If he keeps hitting below the Mendoza line (I’m petitioning that we change it to the Chris Davis line), he may find himself back in Triple-A. But if Greiner’s defense is really as good as some of the catching numbers suggest, Tyson Ross is just going to have to deal with not feeling quite as tall.

Featured Photo Credit: Carlos Osorio/AP

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