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High School Catchers

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One of the things I like to do when preparing for the final phase of my report writing is to compare how a class rates by position compared to previous years.

The most interesting position to me is high school catchers by a wide margin. One of the most sought-after positions in the game, high school catchers also carry nearly as much risk as high school pitchers. In recent years, teams have gotten much more careful about which high school catchers get picked early in the draft. When compared to the early years of the draft, drafts now are relatively devoid of high school catchers.

Let's take a look at high school catchers drafted in the top ten rounds from the last two drafts:

2008
1. Kyle Skipworth, Patriot HS (CA), 1-6 to Florida, $2.3 million bonus
2. Brett Lawrie, Brookswood SS (BC), 1-16 to Milwaukee, $1.7 million bonus
3. Adrian Nieto, American Heritage HS (FL), 5-151 to Washington, $376,000 bonus
4. Kyle Higashioka, Edison HS (CA), 7-230 to New York (AL), $500,000 bonus
5. A.J. Jimenez, Discipulos de Cristo HS (PR), 9-279 to Toronto, $150,000 bonus
6. Christian Vazquez, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, 9-292 to Boston, $80,000 bonus

2008 was considered fairly short on high school catching talent, though there was excellent talent at the top of the class. Skipworth was considered one of the best high school catching talents in a number of years, and he was known particularly for his bat. His defensive was considered fairly average, so this wasn't a pick due to likable pop times. Lawrie was much the same way, though he didn't even last a year as a catcher in the pros, instead moving to second base. Most never thought he'd stick at catcher anyway, but he was given the benefit of the doubt in being announced as a catcher. Nieto was a teammate of first round pick Eric Hosmer, and he was also considered an offensive threat more than a defensive one, setting the tone for this high school class. Higashioka was more of a traditional prep catching pick, as he was more advanced defensively than offensively, and final two catchers, Jimenez and Vazquez, were considered defense-only catchers that were signable out of Puerto Rico. The geography is notable, as it was two Southern Californian catchers, two Puerto Rican catchers, a Floridian catcher, and a Canadian. The Canadian didn't stick at the position, so the rest of the picks were from warmer climates with a more established scouting ground.

2009
1. Steve Baron, Ferguson HS (FL), 1s-33 to Seattle, $980,000 bonus
2. Tommy Joseph, Horizon HS (AZ), 2-55 to San Francisco, $712,500 bonus
3. Cameron Garfield, Murrieta Valley HS (CA), 2-74 to Milwaukee, $492,200 bonus
4. J.R. Murphy, Pendleton School (FL), 2-76 to New York (AL), $1.25 million bonus
5. Wil Myers, Wesleyan Christian Academy (NC), 3-91 to Kansas City, $2 million bonus
6. Max Stassi, Yuba City HS (CA), 4-123 to Oakland, $1.5 million bonus
7. Luke Bailey, Troup County HS (GA), 4-139 to Tampa Bay, $750,000 bonus
8. Jan Vazquez, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, 6-187 to Los Angeles (NL), $125,000 bonus
9. Jobduan Morales, Jose E. Alegria HS (PR), 9-278 to Florida, $70,000 bonus
10. Jeff Glenn, Winter Haven HS (FL), 9-284 to New York (NL), $150,000 bonus
11. Joey Schoenfeld, Santiago HS (CA), 10-295 to Pittsburgh, $195,000 bonus
12. Tucker Barnhart, Brownsburg HS (IN), 10-299 to Cincinnati, $250,000 bonus
13. Tyler Roberts, Jones County HS (GA), 10-316 to Milwaukee, $90,000 bonus
14. Michael Ohlman, Lakewood Ranch HS (FL), 11-326 to Baltimore, $995,000 bonus

The 2009 prep catching class was expected to be a once a decade type of class, and it turns out that the results matched the hype on draft day. Though the elite talents such as Myers, Stassi, and Bailey all slipped to the third and fourth rounds, they still received large bonuses, and Bailey's fall was due more to Tommy John surgery than anything else. Interestingly enough, the first catching pick, Baron, wasn't expected to be in the top five even a week before the draft, but a pre-draft deal and the fall of the others due to high price tags led to him being selected with the first pick of the supplemental first round. Baron, along with Garfield, Vazquez, Glenn, Barnhart, and Ohlman, was considered a defense-first catcher, and there was a larger group of players in this group that resembled more of the old school, low pop time catching picks of the early draft years. These types of players usually have a high bust rate, though some will turn out to be quite productive. Joseph, along with Morales and Schoenfeld, isn't expected to stick at catcher in the long run, so they might be off this list fairly soon. Joseph, Murphy, Myers, Stassi, and Bailey are considered big bats, and these stand the best chance of being elite prospects and successful Major League players, though Bailey's success is contingent on his arm recovering. The geography game was fairly similar in 2009 to 2008, with 4 Floridian catchers, 3 Californian catchers, 2 Puerto Rican catchers, an Arizonan, 2 Georgians, and the more non-traditional states of North Carolina and Indiana thrown in. This was truly an elite class that likely won't be matched again for some time.

2010 Prep Catching Prospects
1. Justin O'Conner, Cowan HS (IN), Arkansas signee
2. Kellin Deglan, R.E. Mountain SS (BC), Florida International signee
3. Stefan Sabol, Aliso Niguel HS (CA), Oregon signee
4. Will Swanner, La Costa Canyon HS (CA), Pepperdine signee
5. Matt Roberts, Graham HS (NC), North Carolina signee
6. Jake Hernandez, Los Osos HS (CA), USC signee
7. Jacob Felts, Orangefield HS (TX), Texas signee
8. Jake Rodriguez, Elk Grove HS (CA), Oregon State signee
9. Alex Lavisky, St. Edward HS (OH), Georgia Tech signee
10. Tyler Austin, Heritage HS (GA), Kennesaw State signee
11. Eric Arce, Lakeland HS (FL), Florida State signee
12. Roberto Pena, Eloisa Pascual HS (PR)
13. Rowan Wick, Carson Graham SS (BC)
14. Hommy Rosado, Barbe HS (LA), LSU-Eunice JC signee
15. Christian Carmichael, Mililani HS (HI), Hawaii signee

These are the 15 2010 high school catching prospects that are most likely to be selected in the top ten rounds. Using the historical data, let's eliminate some from the pool. First, Eric Arce is probably eliminated due to his legal troubles. That leaves 14. Next, I'd expect Carmichael and Rosado to either make it to school or get selected for a different position, though that's more of a comment about Rosado than Carmichael. That leaves 12. Texas has traditionally not had many high school catchers selected, and none have been selected in the previous two years. Combine that with Felts' Texas commitment that is considered fairly strong, and I think you can eliminate him from contention unless he starts climbing in workouts this month. That leaves 11. Next, I think you can eliminate Rowan Wick for now, though his signability might be a plus. However, Canadian catchers are rarely picked high unless they have a special bat, and while Wick is a solid prospect, I think he's more likely to slip a little. That leaves 10. Looking at potential price tags from commitments, I think you can likely eliminate Lavisky, but you can leave the rest. That leaves 9.

Here's what the list looks like now:

1. Justin O'Conner
2. Kellin Deglan
3. Stefan Sabol
4. Will Swanner
5. Matt Roberts
6. Jake Hernandez
7. Jake Rodriguez
8. Tyler Austin
9. Roberto Pena

That's roughly an average class. However, O'Conner, Sabol, Rodriguez, and Austin all have positional issues, and they could easily find themselves at other positions soon, perhaps even having their name called at a different position. O'Conner's new to catching, and Sabol, Rodriguez, and Austin are all very athletic and raw for the position. Deglan represents the best overall balance between catching skills and offensive skills, and he's a very likely bet to be drafted in the top three rounds following an excellent spring. Swanner and Roberts are climbing boards very quickly, and while Hernandez has some hype in some circles, he's considered more of a defense-first, traditional high school catching pick that could easily fall off boards if teams want better hitting upside. Pena is almost a sure bet to go in the top ten rounds, as he fills the normal signable Puerto Rican quota. There aren't any other notable Puerto Rican catching prospects this year unless you count outfield prospect Cesar Rivera, who has caught in the past. He doesn't really have the talent for the top ten rounds, though, so my best guess is that Pena represents the only Puerto Rican catcher in the top ten rounds this year. All in all, this is a fairly average high school catching class, and I'd guess that there are 7-11 high school names called in the top ten rounds next month, depending heavily on signability.

What do you guys think about high school catchers? Are they too risky or is evaluation getting better over the years? Who's your favorite prep catching prospect in this year's draft outside of O'Conner?