Top Catchers of the Future

August 27, 2008 at 10:13 am Leave a comment

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Probably the toughest position to rank and to predict for the future is catcher. It is by far the most physically demanding position on the diamond and most good hitting catchers have to move off the position by the time they reach thier 30’s due to the wear and tear. Other catching prospects outgrow the position (height not weight) and have to move off catcher (think Jayson Werth). So here I go with my ridiculous attempt to rank the cathcers of the future with the only criteria being that they have to be entering their rookie season next year or later.

1. Matt Wieters (BAL) – This guy is going to be the catcher that every kid idolizes going through little league the next 10 years. Wieters does it all. He hits for average, power, he has great patience, a great eye, great pitch recognition, a cannon of an arm that is also accurate, and a good glove. He is athletic for his size and the only knock is his size. He is already 6’5” and weighs 230 so there is fear he may outgrow the position even though he handles it as a plus defender. Wieters is Joe Mauer with more power. His current stats between High-A and AA (better stats in AA): .350/.451/.599 with 22 doubles, 26 homers, 88 RBI, 83 runs, 79/71 BB/K rate in 411 at-bats.

2. Bryce Harper (Las Vegas, NV H.S.) – That’s right, a high school kid is my #2 catching prospect of the future. Not only is he a high school kid but he just started his sophomore year and is 15 years old (he turns 16 in October). Scouts rave about him. Here is a piece by Keith Law, head of Scouts Inc. at the 4-letter:

Harper is the best underclass prospect to come along since Justin Upton, who was in turn the best since Delmon Young. Harper isn’t the freak athletic talent that Upton is, but he has an unbelievably professional approach at the plate, getting bat to ball and making hard contact that resonated throughout Blair Field at Long Beach State. He showed he could pull 92-93 mph fastballs — taking one to the wall in right field on a day when no balls left the yard — and showed he knew when to take a ball the other way, lining a double over the left fielder’s head. He has a 65-70 arm behind the plate even with a slightly long throwing motion and solid receiving skills. He’s an above-average runner, legging out a triple in 12.04 seconds. He didn’t pitch while I was at Blair Field, but an area scout who has seen him pitch told me he’s seen Harper up to 94 mph. He’d be the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft if he were eligible, and he’s the odds-on favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft.

He also rated him as the best overall prospect in the entire Area Code games. Click here for a video of his stroke.

3. Buster Posey (SF) – This may be a reach but catchers are so hard to predict and he has high probability of being one of the top catchers in the majors. Posey does remind me of a Joe Mauer type across the board but maybe a tick below in each category. On the scouts grading scale (20-80 with 50 being a solid-average player at the top level and 60 being All-Star caliber) his projected grades by Scouts Inc. are: Hitting: 55, Power: 50, Plate Discipline: 55, Running Speed: 45, Fielding Range: 65, Arm Strenght: 65, Feel for Game: 60. Those hitting grades aren’t based on average catchers but on overall hitters. He projects to be a well above average player that should be a very good #2 hitter with 15+ homer power and a ton of doubles while playing great defense.

4. Carlos Santana (CLE) – Santana is the reason why it is so hard to predict these lists. He is a converted outfielder and wasn’t much of a prospect before this season. He didn’t even make my top 20 list for the Dodgers at the time. He has grown into a very good hitter. He never showed much pop before this season (18 homers in 700 at-bats) but has always shown a good eye and great patience. He his currently hitting .325/.432/.555 with 38 doubles, 5 triples, 18 homers, 111 RBI, 116 runs, 10 steals, and a 87/79 BB/K rate in 443 at-bats. Those numbers are deserving of the #2 spot on this list but this is the first year he has hit like this and he has done so in good hitters parks. I think he can keep it up and may be one of the best catchers in the majors over the next 10 years.

5. Taylor Teagarden (TEX) – He may not be having the best season of his pro career this year but he can play the game. He is probably the best defender on this list and defense counts for half a player’s value. He also has tools to hit and has a great park to do so. His numbers this year are less than stellar (.218/.330/.376 with 8 homers and a 36/78 BB/K rate in 234 at-bats) but he has battled injuries and has played at 3 different levels including the majors (where he went 1-6 with a game changing homer as his only hit). Last year he overachieved and hit .310/.426/.586 with 28 doubles, 27 homers, 83 RBI, 94 runs, and a 75/128 BB/K rate in 394 at-bats. He should be somewhere between those numbers which is a very productive catcher that should be a top defender in the big leagues.

Catchers with bright futures ahead: Jonathan Lucroy (MIL), Lou Marson (PHI), Hank Conger (LAA), Petey Paramore (OAK), Josh Donaldson (OAK), Mitch Canham (SD) , Jason Stanford (HOU), Taylor Hightower (COL), Devin Mesoraco (CIN), Travis D’Arnaud (PHI), J.P. Arencibia (TOR).

All due respect to these guys who should all be fine hitters but some might not stay at catcher due to position battles, outgrowing the position, or the fact they simply stink behind the plate: Pablo Sandoval (SF), Jesus Montero (NYY), Max Ramirez (TEX), John Jaso (TB), Angel Salome (MIL), Kyle Skipworth (FLA), Brett Lawrie (MIL).

-Jonathan C. Mitchell

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