DETROIT -- The Tigers had to go outside the organization to fill a lot of positions over the last decade. Catcher is not one of them. If Jake Rogers develops as expected over the next year or two, Detroit won't need help behind the plate any time soon, either.
Rogers wasn't the headline prospect in the Justin Verlander trade, but there's a reason why the Tigers plucked him from the Astros system in the last-minute deal. He heads to Spring Training not only ranked as the top defensive catching prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline, but also the fifth-ranked catching prospect overall.
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Rogers ranked eighth among catching prospects last year before finishing up a strong all-around first full Minor League season. His defensive skills were already known out of college, which is why the Astros used a third-round pick on the Tulane product. He hasn't disappointed, throwing out 46 percent of attempted base thieves last year.
Rogers' offensive contributions last season, however, opened some eyes. After putting up respectable numbers in the Midwest League at Quad Cities, Rogers advanced to the Carolina League and hit .265 (83-for-313) with 18 doubles, 12 homers, 55 RBIs and an .814 OPS for Buies Creek. The 22-year-old's bump in power also came with a reduction of his strikeout rate.
Rogers finished up his season with two games at Class A Lakeland following the trade. He was in line for a spot in the Arizona Fall League, but was scratched from the Tigers' plans there. He could rejoin the Flying Tigers out of camp, but the Tigers could give him a push to Double-A Erie and pair him with what is expected to be a standout pitching staff led by top prospect Franklin Perez (who Rogers caught in the Astros system) and Beau Burrows.
Though the Tigers' resurgence started 14 years ago with the signing of a veteran catcher in Ivan Rodriguez, Detroit has been able to promote catchers from the system into starting roles since Alex Avila became a regular in 2010. A midseason injury to Avila in 2015 allowed James McCann, a former Tigers top pick, to slide into a starting role.
McCann not only remains Detroit's starting catcher, he has a chance to take on a leadership role in a Tigers clubhouse that lost much of its veteran presence in trades last year. He's under team control through 2020, but between Rogers and Grayson Greiner, the Tigers have potential replacements in line if McCann is traded in the next couple years as part of the Tigers' rebuild. General manager Al Avila told Tigers radio voice Dan Dickerson earlier this month that they'll likely go year to year on contracts with McCann, who signed a one-year deal last week in his first year of arbitration eligibility.
Greiner, the Tigers' third-round pick in the 2014 Draft out of South Carolina, is also regarded as a strong defensive catcher. He threw out 37 percent of would-be basestealers at Erie last year while batting .241 (79-for-328) with 20 doubles, 14 homers, 42 RBIs and a .759 OPS.