Home » 2011 MLB Draft » 2011 College C » 2011 MLB Draft – Top College Catching Prospects

2011 MLB Draft – Top College Catching Prospects

I mentioned recently how I enjoy this time of year. There’s no doubt that I miss watching baseball regularly, but the inactivity of the winter season lends itself to loads of deep draft thoughts, if such thoughts are actually possible. My deep thoughts of this particular day revolve around the 2011 college catching class, a position group that lacks top level talent but impresses with depth.

Before we get to the rankings, allow me to share another reason why I enjoy this time of year. It’s not just the ability to spend the cold, long winter nights thinking about the draft that has me excited about the winter. It’s the way I look forward to the uncertainty, fluidity, and variety of early season draft rankings. By May, every list you see is more or less the same, with maybe a few random names moved up or down a spot or two to spice things up. In November/December/January, there aren’t enough rankings publicly available to steal ideas even if you wanted to. Originality, for better or worse, rules the day.

This should all make sense after a look at the 2011 college catching prospect rankings. The list is extremely preliminary and subject to change on a whim. The first iteration, with a few notes here and there, are finally ready to see the light of day…

1. Zach Komentani (San Diego)

2. Andrew Susac (Oregon State)

3. Pratt Maynard (North Carolina State)

4. Jeremy Schaffer (Tulane)

5. Jett Bandy (Arizona)

6. CJ Cron (Utah)

Love Komentani’s upside both at the plate and behind it. Plus raw power, super quick wrists, plus throwing arm, raw defender at present but above-average tools should turn into playable skills in time, good athleticism, and overwhelmingly positive results when called upon for both San Diego last spring and this summer’s Prospect League. Maynard’s plate discipline and overall approach to hitting gets me all hot and bothered, but I wonder if his defensive versatility will blind some teams to the fact he is a more than capable defensive catcher. Schaffer, Bandy, and Cron have similar scouting profiles (above-average to plus arm strength, raw defensively but tools to work with, potential above-average bats at position), but Schaffer’s raw power upside gives him the edge for me, despite Cron’s crazy 2010 power display.

Susac not in the top spot is different, but I’m breaking one of my own rules here and opting for the wait and see approach with his 2011 season development. One of my biggest prospecting pet peeves is when someone says “Player X is due for a breakout, look for him to shoot up the rankings next year!” because, really, what does that even tell us? If he plays well this season, then he’s a good prospect? Well, to steal a phrase from fourth grade me, no duh! Susac has the two things teams look for in catching prospects — raw power and raw arm strength — but, based on what I’ve seen and heard dating back to his high school days, Susac strikes me as a five o’clock hitter at this point in his development. Then again, those batting practice displays are pretty darn special, special enough to get him the second overall spot despite his so-so freshman campaign. I think the report on Susac from May 2009 holds up, especially if you ignore the fact I didn’t realize he’d be draft-eligible in 2011:

Andrew Susac (California) – maybe the best arm in class, very quick pop times (1.8 – 1.9 seconds), and an impressive overall all-around defender; very strong, but questionable (at best) swing mechanics; raw power is there, but he is a definite project; would love to see him follow through on his commitment to Oregon State, where he could develop into a potential first rounder in 2012

7. Pete O’Brien (Bethune Cookman)

8. Beau Taylor (Central Florida)

9. Michael Williams (Kentucky)

O’Brien’s all-or-nothing approach and questionable defensive future gives me pause. Mike Williams offers a similar approach at the plate — hacktastic, but plus power upside — and much, much better defensive skills, but loses out in a comparison to O’Brien based largely on the 2010 performance gap between the two.

10. Hommy Rosado (LSU-Eunice)

11. Kevan Smith (Pittsburgh)

12. Christian Glisson (Georgia)

13. Steve Rodriguez (UCLA)

14. John Hicks (Virginia)

I honestly have no idea what to expect out of Rosado going forward, but his awesome power upside has me forgiving reports of his less than thrilling defensive chops. Smith’s upside is unusually high for a college senior because he’s spent so much time away from the diamond while concentrating on something called “football” instead. Glisson and Rodriguez both are line drive hitters with strong catch and throw reputations.

15. Nate Johnson (Pepperdine)

16. Nick Rickles (Stetson)

17. Austin Barnes (Arizona State)

18. Kenny Swab (Virginia)

19. Geno Escalante (Chipola JC)

Johnson this high is purely speculative on my end; love the swing so much that I think he’s due for a big 2011. As a player who profiles as a potential plus-plus defender, Barnes is the opposite end of the spectrum. Escalante, like Susac, was part of the loaded 2009 prep catching class. His report, also from May 2009:

Geno Escalante (California) – defense-first catcher, with a bat that needs plenty of polish to even be considered average; name makes it sound like he should be an East Coast prospect, but he’s a California kid who is committed to attend Cal State Fullerton if he doesn’t get paid; lesser version of Steve Baron in my mind

Lesser version of Steve Baron was perhaps a tad harsh, but I stand by it.

20. Parker Brunelle (Florida State)

21. Chris Schaeffer (North Carolina State)

Brunelle and Schaeffer are both personal favorites, Brunelle especially. As I’ve written before, Brunelle, a top high school prospect way back when, has disappointed since enrolling at Florida State. He’s still an outstanding athlete with a line drive swing, so there may still be some hope he’s another late blooming catching prospect. Unfortunately, the lack of power and an average at best throwing arm represent two major strikes against him. Since publishing that last June, I’ve received multiple positive reports out of Tallahassee, leading me to believe that I had originally undersold his throwing arm and mobility behind the plate. I’d love to get another close look at the high upside senior sign this spring.

22. Taylor Hightower (Mississippi)

23. Ben McMahan (Florida)

24. Adam Davis (Illinois)

Hightower, McMahan, and Davis are all jockeying for position to become 2012’s high character, plus defender senior sign backup catcher type who makes good, a la TCU’s Bryan Holaday.

25. Tyler Ogle (Oklahoma)

26. James McCann (Arkansas)

Way low on both Ogle and McCann relative to what else I’ve read, but both looked like mistake hitters with limited upside to me.

27. Ronnie Shaeffer (UC Irvine)

28. Rafael Lopez (Florida State)

29. Phil Pohl (Clemson)

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    24 Comments

    1. Coach R. Fowler, E. Smalles, D. Ogle, E. Garza says:

      Ron – we applaud the efforts you put into this early list of capable catchers for the 2011 MLB Draft. But some of your rankings defy using the numbers. How on earth do you rank OU’s Jr. Tyler Ogle 25th?? Offensively in 2010 Ogle batted .331 with a slg% of .601 and defensively had a fld% of .992. After 2 seasons and 260 bats at D1 in the Big 12, Ogle carries a .320 AVG with a slg% of .525. A mistake hitter? These stats are higher than most of your top 10 picks.

      Coming out of Texas, Ogle has paid his dues at OU. Playing beside ’09 Johnny Bench award winner J.T. Wise as a DH and then fighting 3 larger and older players for the starting job behind the dish in ‘10. Review Ogle’s play in the NCAA play-offs. He batted 5 for 11 (.455) in the CWS with 2 HRs, 4 RBI, 0 Ks, and 14 for 31 (.451) combining stats from the Regionals and Super Regionals. Against top ranked UVA’s rotation, he went 5 for 9 in Charlottesville. USC’s Ray Tanner commented he remembers OU’s Ogle – back picking Bradley off first base and then parking an outside fb 375ft. to opposite field. Add these CWS clutch hitting numbers to PG clocked 1.9 pop times, great defensive skills, and a stronger 195 lb. frame and you have a solid multi-tool catcher for any team. Had Ogle not injured his hand in bullpen in the Cape this summer, he would have shown he can perform with a wooden bat as well. His expected 2011 performance will hopefully earn your reconsideration.

      • Rob Ozga says:

        I’ve given this comment a lot of thought, and all I can really say is…you’re right. It’s funny because I tend to lean more heavily on the numbers than most followers of the draft, but still found a way to downgrade Ogle more than he deserved based on a few offhand remarks from people who have seen him more than I. I was about 99% sure I wanted to reconsider these rankings already (as I’ve worked on other position lists, I’ve realized my methodology for my first list, the catchers, was already outdated), but now I’m 100% sure. Thanks.

        I like Ogle’s strong postseason run as a sort of “cherry on the top” for the nice year he had, but I can’t really move him, or anybody, up or down based on such a small number of plate appearances. On the season, I’d put his numbers on par with guys like Swab, Hicks, Schaeffer, Glisson, Bandy, Komentani, Taylor, Schaffer, Cron, O’Brien, Rodriguez, Maynard, and Smith. That right there would vault him up into the top 14, based largely on the strength of his numbers. Throw in players like Susac, Williams, and McMahan (strong scouting profiles, lesser numbers), and he’s still (at worst) in the top 18. Even with a small school wildcard like Rosado, Ogle is in the top 20…and, again, that’s the absolute lowest he’d rank. Offhand I’d probably say he winds up closer to 10 than 20, but I can’t say for sure until I go back and check.

        Lastly, your point on his defensive skills is well taken. I just double checked my notes and I have 3 times more comments on his defense (all positive, by the way) than I do on his hitting. So, again, thanks for bringing that back to the surface.

        And the mistake hitter comment was directed more towards McCann than Ogle. I’ve actually only ever seen Ogle on video, so I’m far from qualified to even comment on his ability much more than I already have. Any additional insight you want to provide, either now or as the season gets going, will absolutely be appreciate. Thanks again for the great comment, firsthand commentary like that is a huge part of why doing this site is fun in the first place.

        • Ryan Reynolds says:

          Noticed you took another shot at McCann. Before I proceed to break it down for you I need to ask…………….Have you seen him play?

        • Rob Ozga says:

          Ha, no I’ve never seen him play in person. Video only. And my comment wasn’t even based on anything I’ve ever personally seen, it was merely me passing along something I’ve heard from somebody who has watched him pretty extensively over the years. Stuff like this always comes out rude on the internet, but I mean it in all sincerity…I’d love to have you “break it down” for me, whether via the comments section, email, or in a guest post. That’s how we learn.

          ***

          This isn’t necessarily directed toward the original comment, but more of a preemptive strike concerning something that has been on my mind of late. I HATE being negative about any player. There is not a single amateur player on that planet that I want to see fail. If it was up to me, every prospect would get drafted by the team they love, sign contracts that set them up for life, go on to have Hall of Fame careers, and receive ponies and candy every birthday from here on out.

          However, I feel passing along notes and observations, positive or negative, is part of what makes this site, or any opinion-driven site like this, interesting in the first place. At this point in the process, when so little is known about so many draft-eligible prospects, sometimes all I have to offer is a short blurb like the one I have in my notes on McCann: “struggles with high fastballs; good overall approach, but only able to consistently drive mistakes at this point; good athlete for a backstop.” I’ve never seen him play in person. I’ve not heard anymore on him than that one quote I just typed. I respect the hell out of anybody who only evaluates players they have seen play in person and know forwards and backwards, but that comes at the price of publishing incomplete rankings, a price I’m not personally interested in paying.

          I know many of the more legitimate operations in the draft business think very highly of McCann. They have more information and better resources than I do, so chances are that they are right. I’m upfront about that. I’m just one guy who watches too much baseball who has stumbled into some meager connections along the way. There I times I think that, yeah, maybe it is a tad irresponsible on my end to put up rankings or lists based on only the limited information I have. I get over that when I remember that no team in this upcoming draft will happen upon my rankings and make a pick based on what I’ve said. My only goal with the site is to provide any additional draft-related information that I can dig up, and, yes, the occasional (hopefully, well-informed) opinion for any baseball obsessed fan passionate about following his/her favorite team’s prospects from amateur status to the big leagues.

    2. Ryan Reynolds says:

      Thank you for your response and message. I have a much better understanding of what this website is about. I’m thankful for all the hard work you put into making this site possible so baseball junkies, like myself, can stumble across it.

      With that said, I wasn’t looking to fight or even to stir it up. I was wondering how a player gets ranked such as in person, scouts or the internet. Your response was perfect.

      All the players on the list are great and deserve to ranked. I’m not taking away from any one of those players. I’m sure they can sit here and go round for round on what makes them as great as the next guy. I get that. So instead of breaking it down on the field I’m going to throw something else out there.

      We are talking about the 2011 mlb draft and catchers. Not who is the best college player. What about intangibles? You know those little things that make a player special. Everybody has them, James’ are off the chart. Most circles already have him as the best defensive catcher in the country. Here’s what some already know and other are learning…………..

      University of Arkansas
      6’3 220 perfect catchers build
      Academic All American 3.99 GPA (Baseball IQ is rumored to be higher)
      2 time team Captain
      Work ethic and approach to game 10+
      Community Service Club Leader
      Christian Athletes Club Leader
      Zero off the field problems
      Has called his own game for 2 1/2 years in the SEC
      Has won everywhere he’s caught. Midland, Ark and Cotuit.
      Has played in 2 regionals, 1 super and 1 world series
      Can speak catcher/pitcher Spanish
      Cali product who left for the bright lights of the SEC
      20 years old on draft day and signable

      I’m not asking you to change the list or reconsider. Doesn’t matter to me. I’m predicting McCann is in the top 5 for catchers when the names are called.

      • Rob Ozga says:

        Kept forgetting to respond to this comment, but been meaning to thank you for it. Lots of good information that isn’t typically available — I especially like knowing stuff like the catcher/pitcher Spanish bit — and it’s good to hear you’re sticking to your guns on McCann. We’ll see…

    3. David Carman says:

      Probably should look hard at a kid catching at Oklahoma City University named Chad Carman. He hit .412 with 14 HR, 2 triples, 22 doubles and had a .763 slugging% as a sophomore last year. He made the first team All SAC Conference at catcher and honorable mention All-American. He led the team in batting average and was in the top 5 in almost all offensive categories on the team. His pop time is consistently around 1.9 with a best of 1.86. He did all of this while playing with a ruptured disc in his back, which has been successfully repaired, and he has been picked to the NAIA pre-season All-American team.

    4. Ronnie B says:

      Rob,

      Not really sure where you come up with your reasoning if you haven’t seen all of these guys in person(something tells me you wouldn’t know what to look for even if you did). Susac and Maynard are the two best defensive catchers in the country followed closely by Hightower. Right behind them is Mike Zunino who is the everyday catcher for the Gators. Yet you have Ben McMahon ranked in the mid 20’s on your list. If you’re going to put a list together don’t half ass it. Oh an Ryan, James is probably in the bottom half of the catchers in the SEC. Take off the rose-colored glasses .

      RB

      • Ryan Reynolds says:

        Rob,
        Louisville Slugger 3rd team preseason All-American as of today. Do you really think a bottom half SEC catcher makes that team. I think I’ll keep the glasses on. Not gonna argue……get off the internet, do your homework and watch a game. Everyone of those kids who has played against McCann either in the Cape or in the SEC know something you don’t………………he’s a better catcher.

        • Ryan Reynolds says:

          Not Rob (sorry Rob)…RB here and above post
          Just read where Susac wasn’t even voted the best catcher in the Cape by the coaches………… McCann was. Best catcher in the Cape and you say he’s in the bottom half of the SEC. Most of the guys you mentioned, if not all, were in the Cape. Just wondering how you throw that out there? Did you forget the title of the original post? Now go look at what Louisville Slugger PreSeason All Americans. How did McCann make that with his average? How come they wrote great defense on his stat line, because he is the best catch and throw guy in the country.
          Funny thing about my rose-colored glasses. No matter how many times I read your post it never looks good.

      • Rob Ozga says:

        Susac and Maynard ranked second and third respectively, so I’m not quite sure what the issue is. I praised Maynard’s defense (“more than capable defensive catcher”) and Susac’s defense (“impressive overall all-around defender”). I also said Hightower was a “plus defender.” Seriously, what am I missing here?

        I’m curious as to what SEC catchers you definitely like over McCann. I don’t mean that in an unpleasant way, I’m genuinely curious. I haven’t looked at the SEC in great depth just yet, so any new viewpoints on the subject are appreciated. And since I can’t resist…

        “something tells me you wouldn’t know what to look for even if you did”

        I really don’t understand comments like this. If you don’t like where a player is placed on a list and want to disagree, cool…let’s talk about it. If you think the whole methodology is off and I have no clue what I’m talking about, well…fine, that’s cool as well, you’re entitled to your opinion, but I just don’t understand taking the time to read, comment, and put the hard work of other people down. What kind of response do you really expect when you come in with that kind of attitude? Seems like willingly heading straight to a dead end from the start to me.

        Also, Mike Zunino isn’t eligible for the 2011 MLB Draft. If you’re going to put a comment together, don’t half ass it.

    5. T Michael says:

      Wow Rob, You have it coming at you from all fields Man. I know from experience when people have true opinions to share about favorite players they believe should be in the rankings and where they should fall , they get a bit personal but don’t fret Man , Your doing the job you do and keep it coming Pal. I mean they can’t expect you to see everyone and even when you do,how many times will you be able to stay on one guy to get all your info out? So with that I too, have my favorite Catcher and He’s not even on your list. Go see Trent Garrison at Fresno State a Junior Catcher this upcoming year with exceptional defensive skills, A Top 25 Prospect this summer in the ABL , Alaskan BB League. Has a 1.7 pop according to Coach Batesole , Hits Left and for average. 2010 at .340 , 46 RBI HR and Gap power. Threw down on 20 Runners too. All WAC and Wac Academic , Johnny Bench Watch list , You know , all that stuff too. You will hear more about him shortly. Give him a look Rob. You will put him on your list.

    6. Ryan Reynolds says:

      RB,
      You didn’t run off did you?
      I just read Baseball America #24 college prospect and #3 catcher is McCann? Any thoughts on that one?

      • Ronnie b says:

        Hey Ryan,

        Read my original post . Susac was the best in November and he’s the best now! Just keeping it real!

    7. Guido says:

      What about Tony Caldwell (SR) of Auburn? Twice on JB Award watch list, Picked by Rivals as first team SEC Preseason catcher 2011, Had a very good summer in the Cape, led his team in Bat Ave, made the Cape Allstar team and had a great game, (Mccann didnt make allstar team and didnt have a great summer), No he doesnt have the height 5’10’ but is right at a very solid 200 lbs, He has fast hands and feet,actually one of the fastest running catchers in SEC, Very little pass balls and errors, strong arm-came in second as a sophomore to TCU catcher for throwing out most runners in nation for the reg season , threw out 40%, Led SEC, Also should have won Defensive Catcher award for SEC that year- had better numbers than LSU catcher but not the name recog, Split time in outfield and catcher 2010 because of injuries to Auburns outfielders so that shows versitality. Hit 349/10/41, played or started in 57 of 64 games 2010, 52 out of 54 in 2009

      Scouts in summer said he was a huge sleeper that was missed in everyones radar,

      • Ryan Reynolds says:

        Rivals. You got me there. I can’t argue with that outfit. They really know their stuff.
        I’m going to say this all year long………..McCann will be one of the top 5 catcher’s taken in the draft. I don’t think he’s the best hitting college catcher. I do think he is the best catcher and will be the best pro.

    8. Earl Spencer says:

      I thin you have really missed on McCann from Arkansas. He is one of the best Defensive catchers I have seen. I slao expect a much better bat in 2011. I know he ad a bad summer, until Cape playoffs but has been hitting much better lately.

    9. Earl Spencer says:

      Just saw where James McCann from Arkansas was picked 1st team SEC Pre-Season Conferece Catcher and 8th best draft possiblity for 2011. He is a 4.0 student and won another razorback award at the “Red Tie” event.

    10. Rob Ozga says:

      I’m starting to get pretty anxious about the upcoming revisions to this ranking. The McCann fans are going to hate me all over again. Allow me to apologize in advance for what I’m about to do…

      • Ryan Reynolds says:

        Rob,
        Your #26 college catcher just went 4th catcher overall and #1 for college guys. My prediction McCann goes in top 5 is a winner. Your list was a joke from the get go. Nothing more needs to be said.

        Ronnie B,
        Thanks for jumping in and playing hero. Hey tough guy, what are you keeping real now? Who went 1st McCann or Susac? Best in November and best now, ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha? Hey you like apples? Well I got your number. How you like them apples? And one last thing, my rose colored glasses are still Oakley’s. Not bad for a bottom half SEC catcher. Choke on that fool.

        • Rob Ozga says:

          Sorry for the joke of the list, but, don’t worry, the check for your full refund is in the mail. Again, the list wasn’t about where each player would go in the draft. On top of “your” prediction, Baseball America and Perfect Game had been predicting McCann would go in the top few rounds for over a year. The whole idea of this list — and the subsequent updated versions — was to rank the players in terms of their pro potential, not necessarily future draft standing. When McCann becomes the best (or top 5, I guess) big league catcher out of this group, then you are welcome to come back and crow.

    11. […] for the batters, what about C Parker Brunelle of Florida State? Rob Ozga from the Baseball Draft Report blog is high on the guy, noting that while his college career numbers haven’t been stellar, […]

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