As the weeks pass, I'll be breaking down the Sally's best by position. As a former catcher, I found it fitting to begin with the best catchers the Sally had in 2009. Please keep in mind, this will not be based on potential fantasy value, but on the combination of offensive/defensive ability combined with the chance the player has to stay at the position. Players I haven't seen in person will be italicized as I want readers to know I'm going strictly from reports and statistics which are much different than watching a player in person. I usually shy away from writing about prospects I haven't seen, but if I want a complete list, I find I have no choice.
1. Tony Sanchez, Pirates - The 4th overall pick in the 2009 draft, Sanchez batted a robust .316/.415/.561 in just over 150 at bats. From all accounts, he performed awfully well earning his second promotion since being signed. He should be in Pittsburgh by 2011 and will likely be entrenched as Pittsburgh's starter by 2012. I hated this pick when it was made. In retrospect, the Pirates ability to sign Sanchez immediately, along with their over slot signings turned out fantastic for the Bucs.
2. Travis D'Arnaud, Phillies - Quite possibly the best all-around player I've seen pass through Savannah this season, D'Arnaud left a great impression on me. He hit the ball hard to all fields, played stellar defense, and excellent athleticism for a catcher. I know a .255/.319/.419 line is pretty blah, but his .279 BABIP seems awfully low considering his .330+ mark in 2008 and strong K%. I'd be very surprised if he doesn't break out in a big way in 2010.
3. Derek Norris, Nationals - With a .286/.413/.513 line, Norris was probably the best power prospect to pass through the league during the 2009 season. However, his glove is apparently shotty at best and few would be surprised if he's moved out from behind the plate and over to first. As a first baseman, he would rank the leagues top prospect at the position. Too many questions about his catching ability remain for me to rank him any higher than 3rd.
4. Tim Federowicz, Red Sox - After starting a bit slow, Federowicz caught fire and was promoted to Salem after posting a .345/.393/.562 line in 226 at bats. The best defender behind the dish I've seen this season, he worked well with his staff and completely shut down the Savannah running game. At the plate, he drove the ball to all fields and was the best hitter on the field in two of the three contests. His current age (22), plate discipline, and struggles with Salem keep him from a higher ranking.
5. Josh Phegley, White Sox - The 38th overall selection in the 2009 draft, Phegley's ability to handle a pitching staff, throwing arm, and propensity for driving the ball hard to the opposite field really impressed me. With his poor defensive reputation, I watched him from a number of different angles and saw nothing which would lead me to believe he could not be a serviceable big league backstop. He's not Jackson Williams behind the plate, but he certainly is not Jesus Montero either.
Honorable Mention - Jesus Sucre, Braves - in 169 Sally at bats, Sucre posted a .325/.352/.432 line prior to earning a promotion to Myrtle Beach. With excellent contact skills and solid, but unspectacular defense, I can see him becoming a solid big league backup down the road. However, he needs to work on controlling his emotions behind the dish as he showed up his pitchers on a handful of occasions.
MVP, MVP - Jordan Pacheco, Rockies - Yes, Pacheco was the Sally MVP. No, he's not a legitimate prospect at this point as his age (23) is just too old to warrant serious prospect consideration.
Catcher in Listing Only - Ryan Lavarnway, Red Sox - In posting a .285/.367/.540 line in Greenville, people have asked about Lavarnway as a catching prospect. In actuality, Lavarnway has played plenty of DH, 1B, and even enough OF for me to comfortably say his future does not lie behind the plate.
Big Disappointment - Jacob Jefferies, Rays - Jefferies contact tool is his best asset, his .261/.326/.359 line was downright crummy for a high round college pick. Even more worrisome is that he was not even the starting catcher in Bowling Green. Yikes!
Vultures Circling the Carcass - Kyle Skipworth, Marlins - In speaking with a couple of people who have seen Skipworth on multiple occasions, I have heard nothing but bad things about his all-around game. Long swing, poor contact tool, difficulty defensively, I've heard it all. He's still young, but his triple slash line has been equally awful since his signing and he's going to need to repeat the Sally at 20. At this point, he's looking like the dud of the 2008 draft class.
Check out Scouting The Sally for more on MILB's top prospects.