For some reason, I skipped catchers and jumped to first basemen. Sorry backstops!
This year has a surprisingly deep class of catchers available at the college and high school level. Many of the top catching prospects have questions about their defense that may require them to move off the position, but I suspect teams will give them a longer leash given their offensive potential. Most of the top ten are college catchers, while prep catchers dominate outside the top ten. Without further ado, here are the top ten catching prospects (and really, I could go twenty deep pretty easily):
|Zack Collins||C/1B||JR||L-R||6-3||220||Miami||Pembroke Pines||FL|
|Sean Murphy||C||JR||R-R||6-0||195||Wright State||Dayton||OH|
|Cooper Johnson||C||HS||R-R||6-0||185||Carmel Catholic||Mundelein||IL||Mississippi|
|Ben Rortvedt||C||HS||L-R||5-10||175||Verona Area||Verona||WI||Arkansas|
|Logan Ice||C||JR||S-R||5-11||191||Oregon State||Puyallup||WA|
|Mario Feliciano||C/OF||HS||R-R||6-0||190||Carlos Beltran BB Academy||Hato Rey||PR|
Collins is one of the best bats in this draft. He has crushed the ball this year, hitting .364/.540/.630 with 66 walks to 44 strikeouts. There's still a chance he ends up at first base, but it's much smaller than many thought at the beginning of the year. He has put a lot of work into his defense, and with pro coaching I expect him to be a serviceable catcher. He should be gone in the top half of the first round, perhaps in the top ten picks.
Thaiss is another college bat with great potential. He has a greater likelihood of moving from behind the plate than Collins, but his bat should play at first base as a high OBP with some pop, similar to Scott Hatteberg. But his pop is also underrated, as Virginia's home stadium is a difficult park for power. Because of that, he could morph into a Kevin Youkilis type. He's hitting .382/.477/.591 on the year, with 36 walks to only 14 strikeouts. He should be a first round pick, and could go in the top twenty picks.
Okey was a big prospect out of high school, but was too strongly committed to Clemson. He's hitting .330/.450/.577 with 44 walks to 50 strikeouts. He should be able to stick behind the plate, and be a low BA, high K hitter with some pop. He should be gone by the end of the second round.
Murphy is probably the best defensive catcher in this year's college draft prospect ranks. Jeff Ellis at ScoutingBaseball went so far as to say he's the top defensive player in the entire draft class. However, the bat is suspect, unlike the first three on the list. Hitting .258/.391/.472 at Wright State in the Horizon League isn't anything special, but he did miss 22 games when a hamate bone was broken by an errant pitch. He's a smart kid from an athletic family, as his father made it to Triple-A with the Indians in the 1980s. A team who focuses on catcher defense more than offense will gladly grab Murphy, likely in the first three rounds.
Johnson and Rortvedt are the top two prep catchers, and head and shoulders above the rest of the prep catching pack. But they are highly ranked due to completely different strengths.
Johnson is a glove-first catcher, who could end up the second best defensive catcher from this group. The glove is good enough that you could realistically put a floor on him as a big league backup. If the bat develops at all, say a 35 grade, he's a starter at the big league level for most teams. If he can become an average bat, he's an All-Star. He has a quick, short swing that has some potential. Pro coaching should be able to fix his lower half, which will help his bat develop. He should be gone in the first three rounds, possibly by the end of the second round.
Rortvedt is a bat-first catching prospect. His defensive tools are good enough that he should be able to stick at catcher. And he's got one of the better prep bats in the class. He's got a good eye, and nice line drive power from the left side, with the potential to add home run power. He could be a player that surprises folks and sneaks into the back of the first round, but he should be gone by the end of the first three rounds.
Cumberland has an underrated bat, hitting .344/.480/.678 with 38 walks to 40 strikeouts.Unfortunately, he may be the least likely to stick at catcher of this group (either he or Thaiss). Even at first base his bat has a chance to play, though. Switch hitters with pop from both sides of the plate don't grow on trees. And he's one of the youngest four year college guys eligible in this year's draft - he will be 20 years old until June 25th. I suspect he's gone in the top four rounds, perhaps as early as the second round.
Ice is a late riser college prospect who could be four spots too low here (this group really are bunched up). He should be able to stick behind the plate, and the bat has been a revelation this year, after two meh seasons. He's hitting .310/.432/.563 with a very nice 37 walks to 25 strikeouts. If you buy the improvements at the plate, he's a top two rounds guy. If not, he still should be gone by the end of round four.
Rogers is a glove-first guy - currently second-best glove in this top ten - with enough power potential to make things intriguing. This year, he's hit .260/.384/.398, besting his previous high OPS by almost 200 points. He did have a decent showing in the Cape last summer, hitting .274/.300/.425. But there are definitely enough questions about the bat that I wouldn't take him in the first five rounds.
Feliciano is a lottery ticket that someone will pop higher than expected. It may be unlikely he sticks at catcher, but he has some impressive raw power. He's also one of the youngest players in the draft, as he will be 17 years, 6 months old at draft time. Put it all together, and he could be 5 spots too low on this list, and gone by the end of the second round.