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Quick Comparison – 2010 College Catchers vs 2009 College Catchers

Given the choice of a random sampling of college catching prospects from 2010 and 2009, what side of the ’10 vs ’09 debate will you fall on? It’s been said that 2010 is the better year for college catching, a sentiment I agree with for what it’s worth, but why not actually put conventional wisdom to the death with a head-to-head comparison? Originally I had planned to pick players 1-5-10-15-20-25 from each draft class (2010 based on my rankings, 2009 based on draft order) and compare, but the presence of Bryce Harper would make the entire exercise even more pointless than it probably already is. Instead, we’ll compare 2-7-12-17-22-27. Also, I may have miscounted with the 2009 draft class, but, really, the comparison is unscientific enough already, what’s the harm in mixing things up even further?

Full 2010 college catcher rankings tomorrow. Maybe an Alternate Reality Mock Draft, too. Real Mock Draft is almost done, should be ready to be published early next week. Additionally, comments and emails will be answered in the next 48 hours. Please, do try to contain your excitement. As for our college catching comparison, here’s the quick breakdown:

2010

Yasmani Grandal
Cody Stanley
Tommy Medica
Xorge Carrillo
Tyler Bullock
Jeremy Mayo

OR

2009

Josh Phegley
Tobias Streich
Carlos Ramirez
Tyson Van Winkle
Michael Thomas
Jeremy Gillan

Personally, I like Grandal better than Phegley, Stanley over Streich, and Ramirez more than Medica. 2 wins for 2010, 1 win for 2009. After that, things get pretty close to even with each matchup. Xorge Carrillo gets the edge over Van Winkle in the battle of hilariously named prospects, Bullock (offense!) wins by the slightest of margins over Thomas (defense!), and Mayo/Gillan is a true pick-em. 4 wins for 2010, 1 win for 2009, 1 too close to call. Admittedly not the most scientific way to determine a particular year’s draft strength, but it’s at least one more tiny data point for the pro-2010 crowd.

2009 MLB Draft: Top 25 Draft-Eligible Catcher Big Board

Hope everybody out there had a nice, relaxing long weekend. I spent too much of mine trying to think of creative ways I could cobble something ready to publish Tuesday morning without having it eat into my own nice, relaxing long weekend. I also made my selections as the Angels scouting director in the MVN MLB Outsider Mock Draft, so I’ll be sure to shamelessly self promote my rationale once it goes live later this week.

In the meantime, let’s unleash the full fury of my very own personal draft-eligible catcher big board. It’s not necessarily where I think the players will go on draft day (i.e. Stassi and Sanchez seem like they’ll both land in the first), but instead where I would value each player if I was the boss. Next up in the queue: College Team Profile – Texas Longhorns

Round 1: Wil Myers

Round 1s/2: Luke Bailey, Josh Phegley, Austin Maddox, Max Stassi, Tony Sanchez

Round 4/5: Mike Ohlman, Jonathan Walsh

Round 5/6: Tucker Barnhart, Dan Black, Mark Fleury, Tommy Joseph, Andrew Susac, Josh Leyland, Miles Hamblin, JR Murphy

Round 7/8: Michael Zunino, Jack Murphy, Justin Dalles

Round 9/10: Carlos Ramirez, Steve Baron, Cameron Garfield

Round 10+: Dane Phillips, Miles Head, Robert Stock

2009 MLB Draft: Top Ten High School First Basemen

  1. Jeff Malm (Nevada) – good size (6-2, 220); plenty of pop to stick at first long-term; above-average defensive player with a fantastic throwing arm; not sure he couldn’t stick in RF if given enough reps with professional instruction and if he puts enough time in the gym; part of a star studded Southern Cal class that will never set foot on campus including Jiovanni Mier, Brooks Pounders, and Matt Davidson; judging solely by the bat and no other tool, he stacks up surprisingly well with other prep players including Myers, Bailey, Borchering, Davidson, and maybe an unnamed outfielder or two to be determined…
  2. Colton Cain (Texas) – first thing that stands about about Cain is his very pretty lefthanded stroke; like a lot of the players on this list has an unusually strong arm for a first base prospect; because of that raw arm strength many scouts like him at least as much on the mound as at the plate; I like him as the prototypical two-way high school player that has the potential to really emerge once he concentrates on hitting full time; Texas commit
  3. Jonathan Singleton (California) – very real plus power, both raw and present; many rough edges to his game, but he impressed many scouts this spring with his willingness to work towards improving his approach; can get too pull heavy at times, but again that raw power is hard to ignore; intriguing potential pick because he possesses a bat with the clear upside of a first baseman without needing a potential position switch to enhance his value, something that is surprisingly rare among non-elite (high first round) prep first basemen; well above average defender who has gotten better around the bag with every passing year of his prep career; Long Beach State commit
  4. Kris (KC) Hobson (California) – not enough foot speed to play anywhere but first base, so the pressure is really on Hobson’s bat becoming a major weapon; gap power that projects to home run power down the line, but his swing mechanics may need retooling after signing to untap power potential; yet another plus arm; Texas A&M commit
  5. Telvin Nash (Georgia) – above-average power potential and a strong arm; outstanding athlete with well above-average foot speed who should be capable of playing a corner outfield spot with little problem; Kennesaw State commit
  6. Ethan Bright (Mississippi) – in what is probably more of a weird coincidence than anything else, Bright has been compared to a couple of Canadian stars – his body has been compared to Justin Morneau’s (6-5, 230) and his bat control has been compared to Larry Walker’s; average power potential for the position (20ish homer peak), but the aforementioned ability to control the zone is intriguing; Mississippi State commit
  7. Geoff Baldwin (Colorado) – potential plus defense and a well above-average athlete; slow runner who is stuck at first; yes, he’s got a strong arm; with a frame that suggests future growth, Baldwin’s potential alone would probably put him fourth on the list, but it takes a little wishcasting to picture a future where he puts it all together; a Nebraska commit
  8. Breck Ashdown (Arizona) – ML-frame (6-4, 210); potentially above-average defensively with a plus throwing arm; above-average athlete with, you guessed it, above-average speed on the basepaths; bat has been more good than great, but his frame does lead some to believe more power is coming; all told, he’s a well-rounded prospect that does a lot of things well, but doesn’t feature that one stand out tool that makes him look like a sure-fire future big league first baseman; Oregon State commit who may be best taking his plus arm to Corvallis as a two-way player
  9. Rudy Flores (Texas) – excelled against high level competition, but questions remain about the development of his bat at the professional level; good lefty power, good frame (6-3, 205), and a good arm (high-80s fastball), but borderline top ten round pick who may not get paid enough to sway him from following through on his commitment to Florida International
  10. Kelly Dugan (California) – my personal dilemma with Dugan is fairly simple…the main reason I have him higher than most is also the thing that scares me from putting him any higher; watch Dugan swing a bat and you can see he has the innate ability to wait, wait, wait…and then snap his wrists through the zone; spin that another way and you can say he lacks appropriate pull power for a first baseman due to a slow bat; a professional conditioning program and a tweak or two to his swing setup could give him that split second of bat speed missing to make him a doubles machine reminiscent of a young Casey Kotchman; I’d take the big money and go forth towards reaching my ultimate dream 99 times out of 100, but if I had a scholarship to play baseball in Malibu for Pepperdine like Dugan has…well, I’d have to think long and hard about that one – we’ll see what he does in a few months

2009 MLB Draft: Top Twenty High School Catchers

Because they are catchers, duh

Photo Source: eCoupons.com

  1. Wil Myers (North Carolina) – raw, but with plus power and arm; versatile on defense, but questions abound about his ability to stick behind the plate; he has the tools to remain a catcher, but his bat may be special enough to make a position switch (expediting his path to the big leagues) worthwhile; South Carolina commit who may very well be this year’s version of last year’s first round pick Brett Lawrie; incredibly fast riser who may be in the mix in the top half of the first round
  2. Luke Bailey (Georgia) – best blend of tools outside of Donovan Tate in all of prep class; 6-1, 200; MLB-caliber arm (pre-Tommy John surgery, we’ll have to wait and see how his recovery goes) with very good pop times (1.92 seconds); fantastic athlete with above-average speed (not simply good for a catcher, but overall); Auburn commit who now has more questions (injury and signability) than answers surrounding his game, but I still think he goes in the top two rounds as I believe he’s a safe bet to sign if he gets a fair offer
  3. Austin Maddox (Florida) – ML-size (6-3, 225) with two truly outstanding tools – plus raw power and plus, arguably plus-plus, arm strength; loses points for not being a natural between the lines, despite extensive experience playing year-round ball in Florida; hasn’t had a great spring performance, but still firmly in the running to go in the top two rounds due to the presence of those two present plus tools; with mid-90s heat, could be a potential pitching conversion down the road; Florida commit who forces scouts to ponder the age old question – do you take a more well-rounded prospect or a player like Maddox with two over-the-top excellent tools already present?
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2009 Draft-Eligible Top College Catcher Tournament (Part IV – Jack Murphy Edition)

With the draft a little more than a month away it’s time to get a move on. Let’s jump back in to this year’s college catching prospects. Here’s what we’ve done so far:

Why Do College Catching Prospects Fail?
An attempt to answer the above question
Introduction – The 2009 Field
Part IPart IIPart III
Bonus Coverage – Three Quick Notes

Why I’ve spent so much time thinking/writing about such a weak position in this year’s draft is anybody’s guess, but I started this darn catching tournament thing and by gosh I’m going to finish it. It may take me weeks to do what a real writer would do in minutes, but…wait, I have no idea how to finish that thought. But…at least I’ve avoided the Swine Flu thus far? But…at least I’m the best looking baseball draft writer around (you should really see my smile, it makes man, woman, child, and Clooney all weak in the knees, all at once). But…at least I’ve put my time to good use when not writing – I mean, I must have watched this about 6,000 this past week alone. See, there really is no good way to finish that thought? It may have taken me weeks to ge through this simple task, but the end is finally in sight. The beginning of the end starts now. One more regional to go.

The final (maybe) installment of our college catching prospect tournament — yes, it has dragged on long enough that it no longer deserves highly coveted formal title capitalization status — is thankfully here. Let’s see what we’ll see…after the jump, of course.

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Mid-Week Underdeveloped Musings

First Round Puzzle Pieces

I’m a simple man who tends to think in simple terms. Filling out a mock draft brings back grade school memories of manipulating jigsaw pieces every which way until a pretty picture of a duck or a lake or an eighteenth century Parisian castle emerged from the cutouts. It always helped to get the corner pieces first to frame the picture, a lesson I try to apply to my mock draft construction today – get the corners first and build from there. Find picks that make so much sense that they just have to happen and work backwards once they are filled in. Find teams that will under no circumstances take a particular player or position. Eliminate picks that don’t make sense.

So let’s start piecing this puzzle together. Which teams can we rule out for certain positions early on? Can anybody out there realistically see any of the following teams — Baltimore, San Francisco, Texas, Cleveland, Florida, or Houston — taking a first round catcher? Maybe Texas (lots of young catching, but still sorting itself out), maybe Cleveland (Carlos Santana is coming, but they strike me as an organization that would take a catcher high if he was the best player on their board), but certainly not the other four teams. What about first baseman? I definitely can’t envision a scenario where Rich Poythress goes to Kansas City (Hosmer), Texas (Smoak), or St. Louis (Pujols/Wallace). What have I concluded from my brief puzzle session? Teams don’t draft the same position (excepting pitching) in the first round in consecutive years, so don’t expect it to happen when putting together a mock. Is that a fair conclusion?

More Luke Bailey Fallout

I’ve been thinking more and more about how Bailey’s recent injury will impact the upcoming draft. The Nationals are faced with the very weird predicament of having to pick and pay the most celebrated amateur talent ever AND then sign another top ten player on top of it. Various logical college names have been bandied about for the ten spot (Poythress, LeMahieu, Mitchell…Leake, Paxton, Brothers) that would serve the Nationals well in that they are all talented enough to justify the tenth spot (some more than others), but also not quite sexy enough to warrant a scary overslot bonus. Does Bailey at number ten make sense? He’s got more upside than any of the college names mentioned (though Poythress and Leake are personal favorites, and Mitchell has plenty of untapped potential in his own right), plus his injury could lead to an under the table pre-draft agreement on monetary terms that would have otherwise been untenable. Luke, sign with us and you’ll get the cache of being a top ten pick, the slot (or maybe slightly less) bonus that comes with the position, and a top notch professional staff to walk you through your rehab. Crazy idea, but there it is.

Bailey going tenth would be pretty out there, but there are other spots late in the first that might not be quite as crazy. Check out the teams picking 28th, 29th, and 30th. Boston, New York, and Tampa all have consecutive late first round picks this year. All three teams have shown a willingness to draft aggressively, and all three teams have an organizational need at catcher. No chance they would have had a shot at a healthy Luke Bailey, but now…well, now they’ll be in a position to decide on whether or not he’s worth the risk.

Enough looking ahead, let’s look back. I found one of my unpublished mock drafts from a few weeks ago and, much to my surprise, noticed I had Bailey slotted as high as pick number 9 to Detroit. I know I have toyed with the idea of giving him to Kansas City (12), Oakland (13), Cleveland (15), and Arizona (16/17) at various points prior. How far will he slide?

Player Range Finder

A random feature where I pick a random player and randomly decide where I think he’ll randomly go in the draft. Sounds like a party, right? Our first player is…

Rich Poythress –> crazy optimistic scenario could see him being popped as high as pick number six to San Francisco; worst case scenario sees him falling no further (farther?) than pick 27 to Seattle.

Poythress to the Giants? The odds are Manute Bol slim, but not quite minute enough to rule out entirely. Fact 1 – the Giants organization is rich in prospects, but the pitching still outpaces the hitting by a comfortable margin. Fact 2 – the Giants . Fact 3 – This may or may not be an actual “fact” — I scoff at the notion that words need to fit “definitions” decided on unilaterally by the “Man”– but every draft needs a surprise, right? At this point the talent at the top of the draft looks about as predictable as can be – Strasburg, White, Crow, Ackley, Green, Tate, Matzek, Gibson, Wheeler in some order. It can’t be that simple, can it?

Of course, I think the Giants go best player available (hoping for one of the three position players, I’m guessing) which will rule out Poythress going off the board at six, but it’s not totally inconceivable and that’s all I’m really trying to get at.

Poythress to the Mariners? Now this I could see happening. Poythress plays a mean first base (something the M’s value highly), the Seattle system needs fast moving bats, and he’d represent really good value this late in the round. Of course, the idea that he’d go no later than 27th to Seattle means there are a bunch of teams that represent logical fits well before Jack Z will even get a crack at him.Teams like Washington, Arizona, Houston, Chicago, and Los Angeles all are likely to show heavy interest in the sweet swinging first baseman.

Monday News Burst

Two high school stars were in the “news” recently, but for two very different reasons. What happened and why should we care? Let’s find out in our first ever foray in actually covering real life stuff as it happens…

Shelby Miller

The Blue Jays have had scouts at recent starts made by star prep righthanded pitcher Shelby Miller

Why is this important?

Toronto avoids high school arms like few teams in baseball, so it’s noteworthy whenever they take notice in a prep pitching prospect. At this point it would be an upset to see Miller slip to Toronto in the first (they pick 20th overall), but that’s not quite what makes this note so important. Sure, if Miller is sitting there at 20 and Toronto gets a crack at him then it’ll be intriguing to see how real this interest is. What I find interesting here is the fact that the Blue Jays seem to be opening themselves up to the possibility of drafting high school arms this year. Then again, there is no doubt Toronto (and every other team in the league for that matter) scout so thoroughly that it’s no real shock to hear a rumor going about supposed interest like this even when the team has no real intention of drafting a particular player. So, to recap – maybe it’s something, maybe it’s nothing, but in any case it’s information worth storing away come draft day. If you’ve got a mock draft going and Miller has somehow slipped to the Jays at 20, it may help you to look smart by putting his name down as the pick.

Luke Bailey

Top overall catching prospect Luke Bailey’s draft future is in question due to recent injury…no, not a strained medial ligament and bone bruise to the knee, but rather a strained UCL that has him scheduled for Tommy John surgery

Why is this important?

Big league teams who just last week had Bailey, an Auburn commit, high on their first round draft boards are now faced with the challenge of placing a proper value on the heretofore projected top 15 pick. Teams won’t only have to reshuffle their boards based on where they think Bailey’s value will be league-wide after the injury; no, that would be too easy. Teams will also have to figure out how willing Bailey is to sign a professional contract and for how much cash money it’ll take to get him ready to play pro ball. Every big league front office will have to place a round/dollar value on Bailey and determine whether a) he’ll be signable, and b) whether or not his recovery from injury will make him worth chasing after. That last point is a big one because the 2009 Draft has a chance of being remembered for the premium crop of high school catchers – when faced with the choice of a sliding Bailey or one of the other top round catching candidates (anybody outside of Max Stassi and Austin Maddox, I’d venture), who do you take? A week ago Bailey was a pretty clear number one at the position, but now he faces the very real possibility that he’ll be bypassed not only by high end guys like Stassi and Maddox, but also members of the second group like Jonathan Walsh, Wil Myers, Michael Zunino, or which ever prep prospect you happen to fancy near the top of the prep catching lists. Is a healthy Walsh a better pick than an damaged goods Bailey? I just don’t know.

If you are Bailey, how far do you have to slip to decide “hey, maybe three years playing ball in the SEC and transforming myself into the next Matt Wieters” might be worth while? On the other hand, Bailey might decide that recovery from major arm surgery might be something he’d rather let a big league medical staff oversee and a front office finance.

A Quick Word on Three College Catchers

Josh Phegley doesn’t deserve all the fun, does he? Time to give a little bit of love to the three left behinds in yesterday’s second to last (thankfully) top college catching prospect tournament or whatever the heck I’ve been calling it. Anyway, the losers yesterday were Tommy Medica, Justin Dalles, and Travis Tartamella. In no particular order, here are three college catching prospects that I think will be among the first ten or so best in the 2009 Rule 4 Draft…

Photo Source: Ben's

Photo Source: Ben's

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2009 Draft-Eligible Top College Catcher Tournament (Part III)

It’s been a while since we started this thing up, so take a minute to check out a link or two to see what the heck we’re doing here – Part I and Part II. Who is the best draft-eligible college catcher in all the land? We’re going to find out tournament-style! Next up, the four participants facing off in our very special Joe Mauer Regional…

Joe Mauer Regional

1. Josh Phegley
4. Travis Tartamella

2. Tommy Medica
3. Justin Dalles

Two great American past times...

No suspense here, I’m sorry to report. After upsets in the first two regionals (Stock and Fleury), Josh Phegley blows away all comers here in the Joe Mauer Regional. It’s no surprise, really, as many publications have Phegley safely ensconced as one of the top two college catchers in all the land and a great bet to be off the board by the end of round two. We’ll talk about the other three names at a later date (I like Dalles over Medica, injury or not, by the way), but for now we’ll shine the prospect spotlight on the champ.

I’m excited for June 9 for all sorts of reasons. There are plenty of draft storylines that deserve more press coverage than they’ll inevitably get, but I hope the eventual destination of Josh Phegley gets a little bit of love come draft day. By the numbers, Phegley is truly a standout amongst a group of less than stellar college bats. There is no denying this man’s college production. So where will he land and when? Teams that place a greater importance on statistical performance will be hard pressed to find a better college prospect than Indiana’s star backstop. His numbers both in and out of context are staggering —> .438/.507/.746 with a 34/22 walk to strikeout ratio his sophomore year and .383/.485/.688 with 29 walks to 23 strikeouts so far this year, all while playing home games in a neutral park in the chilly north. To find fault in Phegley’s collegiate numbers is to complain about a stray splatter on a Jackson Pollock.

Phegley’s production has been top notch, but what about his projection? This is where things get more complicated. There are doubts surrounding his defense, his pro power potential, and his bat speed. To be fair, no college hitting prospect this side of Rich Poythress (though even he gets dinged for being limited to first defensively) comes without warts, but the fact that Phegley’s detractors knock his bat so severely is telling. My quick and dirty notes from watching his swing over a few games earlier this season:

  • Pronounced crouch (a little like Aaron Rowand’s), good leverage and balance
  • Circles bat pre-swing as timing mechanism; keeping hands high is key – when they drop, so does his power
  • Uneven feet with his back leg staggered back in box, impressive in the way his lower half moves in sync with the rest of his body during setup and follow through
  • Lets ball get unusually deep, but his wrists (more strong than quick) help his plate coverage – Phegley can afford to wait and wait and wait because, at worst, he has a knack for fouling balls off until he gets one he can drive
  • Swing gets knocked for being long, but I saw it level and surprisingly compact and efficient; the helicopter finish may slow down the swing enough to give certain teams pause

I’d agree with a scout that questions Phegley’s future power potential as his swing is closer to that of a player with consistent line drive, gap power. I’m not sure I’d worry as much about a slow bat, but I do think some tweaks (namely toning down the finish a smidge) could help him shave some time off his swing and perhaps unleash a little bit of the power he loses with his level, one-plane swing.

Phegley’s defense is a topic that has generated plenty of discussion in scouting circles because, well, scouts love talking about an otherwise solid player’s glaring deficiency. Phegley’s defensive tools are solid as he possesses an average to above-average throwing arm with a quick release, but his shoddy footwork and consistent struggles blocking balls in the dirt keep his present defensive grade below-average.

Despite the fact that many of the specific concerns about his defense are valid, he’ll stick behind the plate as a professional. The aforementioned tools are there for Phegley to be an average defensive player and with a bat like his that should be enough. Picture an offense-first, slightly below-average to barely average defender behind the dish. A peak that looks a little something like Michael Barrett’s (2004-2006) with much better plate discipline (one of Phegley’s biggest and most unique strengths) sounds like a reasonable enough upside for Phegley going forward. For those looking for a decent prospect comp, I’ve got two names to consider –  Phillies catcher Lou Marson (with a little more juice in his bat, but less glove) and Rangers catcher Max Ramirez (with less power, but better defense).

In the end, I think a Marson comp (right down to their similar level swings) makes the most sense with a more patient Barrett-like peak well within reason. One of the perks of an established college player with a strong statistical history like Phegley is the near elimination of the total bust factor; it’s hard to see Phegley completely flaming out as a pro, he’s had too much success against high level competition to bet against him at least reaching the bigs as a backup. With a ceiling of Mike Barrett and a floor of Josh Bard (high level backup deemed not quite good enough to catch full-time, but productive when given opportunities). There’s some very real value there, especially considering the typical dearth of catching prospects throughout baseball. It remains to be seen how far down the top prep college catchers will push the college guys on draft day, but Phegley’s statistical profile and good enough tools could get him picked anywhere from late in the first (to a competitive team in need of a quick moving catcher…Tampa? Boston?) to the middle of the third round. I’d take him over any other college catcher, but probably not until midway through the second round.

2009 Draft-Eligible Top College Catcher Tournament (Part II)

Who is the best draft-eligible college catcher in all the land? We’re going to find out tournament-style! Robert Stock shocked the world…or the 400 people who read this site a day…and won a spot in the Final Four yesterday. Today, four more participants face off in our very special Mike Ivie Regional after the jump…

Mike Ivie Regional

Source: Baseball Almanac
Source: Baseball Almanac

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2009 Draft-Eligible Top College Catcher Tournament

Who is the best draft-eligible college catcher in all the land? We’re going to find out tournament-style! First up, the four participants facing off in our very special Steve Chilcott Regional…

Photo Credit: usctrojans.cstv.com

Photo Credit: usctrojans.cstv.com

Steve Chilcott Regional

1. Ryan Ortiz
4. Dan Black

2. Robert Stock
3. Anthony Sosnoskie

The Chilcott Regional, brought to you by the first overall pick of the 1966 Draft and one of only three top picks never to reach the big leagues (Brien Taylor and Matt Bush being the others), is headed up by one of the most athletic catchers in the country, Ryan Ortiz of Oregon State. Ortiz has a slightly above-average arm, but it plays up because of a very quick release. He’s got a big league frame (6-3, 205), but it’s more of a wiry, athletic build than a classic catcher’s body. He has limited upside with the bat because of unimpressive swing mechanics and his setup at the plate leaves plenty to be desired, but he has shown a very mature approach at the plate in his two years starting for the Beavers.

I think Ortiz would be lucky to have a pro career that follows the Eli Marrero/Mitch Maier path –  getting at bats as a super-sub capable of filling the role of backup catcher, reserve corner outfielder, and occasional corner infielder. That’s not a knock, by the way; more young players would be better served by playing up their strengths (in Ortiz’s case, his above-average athleticism and experience at multiple positions on the diamond) and accentuating the positives in their games. Do everything in your power to be a great big league starter, of course, but if things don’t work out as planned then don’t fight a utility future, embrace it.

The challenger, Black, is a totally different animal. His oversized frame (6-4, 220) delivers exactly the kind of punch you’d expect – plus raw power and a plus throwing arm. In my world, a few plus tools beat the heck out of a ton of solid-average ones. In fact, in looking at the little bit of research I did a while back about why so many college catchers fail, I came to the following conclusion:

Catching prospects that fail seem to fall into three central categories: no stand out tools (for some reason players that are supposedly solid in all phases in the game don’t tend to pan out at the position), a string of developmentally damaging injuries (pretty self-explanatory), and more D than O. So all you have to do is find that offensive-oriented catcher with above-average tools and a clean injury history. Easy as that, right? Interesting to note that Jeff Clement, the highest drafted college catcher of the decade, only really fit one of the three criterion – he was an offense first prospect with question marks about all of his non-hit tools and creaky knees. He is still a good prospect, but he’s now 25 years old and back in AAA. Hmm.

Yes, I realize that’s hardly a groundbreaking conclusion, but it’s all I’ve got. Anyway, Black’s two standout tools give him the edge over Ortiz. Simplistic, I know. Sometimes it’s just as easy as that.

Plus raw power and plus arm strength > above-average arm, athleticism, solid contact skills, and below-average power. Black has the higher ceiling (big league starter either at catcher or third base), but Ortiz has the higher floor (his positional versatility is very appealing)In an upset, Black knocks out consensus favorite Ortiz to move on to the second round. Gee whiz, isn’t this fun?

The second matchup isn’t quite as entertaining. I remain a stubborn, stubborn man when it comes to Robert Stock’s catching potential. We’re at the point when almost everybody in the free world sees Stock as a pitcher, but me. You’d think that would be enough to convince me to give up the obsession with his unrealized upside behind the dish, but you have no idea the depths of my stubbornness. I still see the prep version of Stock that tantalized with plus arm strength, plus athleticism, and a projectable frame with lightning quick wrists that had scouts predicting he’d hit for as much power at Southern Cal than Jeff Clement. His mid-90s heat and potential plus curve have scouts believing his professional home will be on the mound, especially now that he’s getting starters innings as a pitcher for the Trojans, but I remain steadfast in my belief that his upside as a catcher hasn’t totally vanished despite three lackluster years at the college level. In a catching crop chock full of players with limited upside, Stock’s true talent level stacks up with all but a select few. Sosnoskie is a little bit like the anti-Stock in that he offers well above-average defense at present, but with a lot less offensive upside. He has shown a good bit of progress with the bat so far in 2009 (leading the Hokies in homers and rocking a 26-15 BB/K ratio), but it may be too little too late to change the perception that he’s a backup catcher at best in the pros. He’s pretty clearly in the lower half of the top 16 college catching prospects, and it will be interesting (to me, anyway) where he’ll eventually stack up against players with similar skillsets on draft day. Anyway, Stock wins this one going away.

4. Dan Black
2. Robert Stock

Two of my top five catchers (spoiler alert!) square off in the Chilcott Regional Final. No need to change my stubborn ways now, right? The winner is Stock but only by the tiniest of margins. It’s downright silly to compare any player to Baltimore phenom Matt Wieters, and it’s even sillier to compare the loser of a competition like this to such a stud prospect, but the scouting reports on Black all read like very poor man’s versions of Wieters. I’m not even sure what a comp like that means (what can we really expect out of a very poor man’s version of Wieters?), but it is just too sexy a comparison to ignore. Even still, give me Stock and that upside that only I still believe in, fool that I am. Welcome to the Final Four of College Catchers, Robert Stock.

The Field of 16 – Top College Catching Prospects

It’s about time we got back to doing some positional rankings around these parts, don’t you think? We covered the top prep righthanded pitching prospects here, here, here, and here, as well as the top college righthanded starting pitching prospects here, here, and here. After a bit of a break, it’s time to jump back in this time with college catching prospects, a topic danced around but never ranked both here and here. Because straight rankings can become a little tiresome after a while, I decided to do something different with the catching prospects. Will it be cool? Will it be super lame? Will it be more confusing and time-consuming than it’s worth? Stay tuned! The top 16 college catching prospects in all the land after the jump, as well as the unveiling of just how we’ll be ranking them this time…

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College Righthanded Starting Pitching Prospects – Comparing 2008 to 2009

If semi-incoherent ramblings about a very specific and unimportant topic with no readily apparent conclusion or point is what gets you going, be prepared to start your week off with something special. If not, congratulations – you’re normal. I’ve got a hunch that anybody out there willing to read some dummy’s baseball draft website probably isn’t “normal” anyway (and I say that with nothing but love), so why not just give in and see where our aimless thoughts will lead us today…

The top 15 righthanded starting pitching prospects as listed on this site, in descending order:

Jeff Inman, David Hale, Jake Cowan, Sean Black, Sam Dyson
Alex Wilson, Kyle Heckathorn, Mike Nesseth, Kendal Volz, Mike Leake
Aaron Crow, Tanner Scheppers, Kyle Gibson, Alex White
Stephen Strasburg

An updated list might look a little something like this:

Strasburg
Gibson/White/Crow
Leake/Scheppers
Dyson/Wilson/Berry
Volz
Nesseth/Heckathorn/Black/Cowan/Hale
Inman

The tiers align with the first round board tiers from last week, with the exception of Dyson rising up to join Wilson and Berry. Volz and Inman are especially difficult players to place, so they got their own private tiers – it’s the perfect solution for a lazy writer like me, really. Nesseth, Heckathorn, Black, Cowan, and Hale are all players that are personal favorites from my initial top 15, but have such mixed opinions that I’m lost on where to slot them in. I guess what I think is most important to take away from the bottom three tiers is that Volz is a clear step above the Nesseth/Heckathorn/Black/Cowan/Hale group (in the eyes of scouts) and Inman has dropped enough that he is clearly below the group (in my eyes). Further complicating the matter is Nesseth’s switch back to the Nebraska bullpen, but I’ll leave him in with this group for now because I still think his stuff works as a starter professionally.

Players considered for the list, but left off for now include Blake Smith (Cal), Scott Bittle (Mississippi), Jorge Reyes (Oregon State), AJ Griffin (San Diego), and Brad Stillings (Kent State). Smith’s status as a two-way player vexes me, Bittle’s stuff may actually work better as a starter/swingman in the long run, and Griffin is a gigantic personal favorite that will see his stock fly up my own personal rankings when I do my next revisions.

Notable players still missing from the list are the righty college relievers – Ben Tootle (Jacksonville State), Jason Stoffel (Arizona), Brad Boxberger (Southern Cal), and Brian Pearl (Washington) all profile best as relievers. Perhaps I can be convinced otherwise (Boxberger and Pearl might have stuff that would translate; Tootle and Stoffel are much better fits in the pen), but for now all four would strictly be drafted as relievers if I was running the show.

*****

For my money, the 2009 college righthanded pitching class absolutely trounces the 2008 class in terms of both quality and depth. However, the comparison between the two years is a tricky one to make because, and I really believe it’s as simple as this, the 2008 pitching class was an extremely weird one. The proponderence of college relievers made it an unusual draft at the time, but it’s gotten even weirder as we begin to see the long-term plans some of the big league teams have for their drafted relievers. Andrew Cashner, Joshua Fields, Ryan Perry, and Carlos Gutierrez were all college closers drafted in the first round. Of the four, it appears that only Fields and Perry are totally locked into their roles as professional relievers; Cashner and Gutierrez both may have the stuff to work better as pro starters. How do we then judge this class of pitching prospects? Are all four labeled as relievers? Does their eventual professional position carry more weight than their college position? How do we reconcile the fact that we don’t actually know the eventual landing spot of players like Cashner, Gutierrez, or Brad Holt? They may be given every shot imaginable to start, yet may work best as relievers in the long run. To simplify my life, I’m only going to evaluate players that were clearly scouted and drafted as starting pitchers.

The 2008 class was also a weird one because of the huge numbers of very talented players who slid down the board into the mid-rounds. These players were all almost cut from the exact same cloth – gigantic frames, big fastballs, questionable control and collegiate performance, and an inability to stay healthy. For this reason, it is my belief that this comparison would have been more enlightening if done with a pre-draft ranking of the available talent. Players like Chris Carpenter, Scott Green, Brett Hunter, Erik Davis, and Luke Burnett, to name a few, may have ranked higher on such a list. Kyle Heckathorn and Mike Nesseth, be forewarned.

2008 Top 15 College Righthanded Pitchers (7 college relievers, denoted with *)

Aaron Crow, Andrew Cashner*, Joshua Fields*, Ryan Perry*, Carlos Gutierrez*, Shooter Hunt, Brad Holt, Lance Lynn, Bryan Price*, Tanner Scheppers, Tyson Ross, Josh Lindblom*, Cody Adams, Aaron Shafer, Cody Satterwhite*

To this point, Cashner, Lindblom, and Price have all been tried as starters; Gutierrez and Satterwhite have so far only pitched out of the pen. I should also note that I was inconsistent in the way I included unsigned players (by memory, I think I only left out Scott Bittle), but I felt that excluding Crow and Scheppers would only create an unfair representation of the 2008 draft’s true talent level.

2008 Top 15 College Righthanded Starting Pitchers

Aaron Crow, Shooter Hunt, Brad Holt, Lance Lynn, Tanner Scheppers, Tyson Ross, Cody Adams, Aaron Shafer, Stephen Fife, Bobby Lanigan, Drew Liebel, Chris Carpenter, Aaron Pribanic, Scott Green, Vance Worley

Of that group, Holt, Fife, and Green may be future relievers, but all three were drafted as starters. College relievers excluded from this list, in addition to the names in the previous group, were Bryan Shaw, Zach Stewart, and Craig Kimbrel.

After all that, we’re left with comparing the following two pools of players. In one corner, we have the 2008’s:

Aaron Crow
Shooter Hunt
Brad Holt
Lance Lynn
Tanner Scheppers
Tyson Ross
Cody Adams
Aaron Shafer
Stephen Fife
Bobby Lanigan
Drew Liebel
Chris Carpenter
Aaron Pribanic
Scott Green
Vance Worley

Their challenger, the 2009’s (don’t read too much into the exact order, I just threw it together quickly):
Stephen Strasburg
Kyle Gibson
Alex White
Aaron Crow
Mike Leake
Tanner Scheppers
Sam Dyson
Alex Wilson
Ryan Berry
Kendal Volz
Mike Nesseth
Kyle Heckathorn
Sean Black
Jake Cowan
David Hale

Crow was king in 2008, but will slot in anywhere between second and fourth this year. Hunt is a quality arm and was a real steal to go as late as he did, but he isn’t in the same prospect class as Gibson, White, Leake, or a healthy Scheppers. I like Dyson, tentatively slotted 7th on the 2009 list, better than I do any of the 2008’s save Crow. If I had to do an overall ranking

Strasburg/Gibson/White/Crow/Leake/Scheppers/Dyson/Hunt/Wilson/Berry/Holt/Volz…and then things get especially murky. From that point on, however, the list would be more about trying to figure out where exactly to squeeze in the 09’s (namely Heckathorn, Hale, and Nesseth) than finding spots for the 08’s (as much as I like guys like Ross and Worley, I’m not sure I could put them over a Black or a Cowan with confidence). There are plenty of slightly later round picks from 2008 (Ethan Hollingsworth, Dan Hudson, Colby Shreve, DJ Mitchell, Michael Stutes) that would also muddle up the picture of what my pre-draft top 15 would look like, but I’ll stubbornly stick with judging the top ranked players from past years based on draft order for now. A comparison between the 2009’s and 2010’s will be better next season because I can compare and contrast my own pre-draft rankings, lists that hopefully give a better idea of talent-level than draft order (which is often skewed by signability and simple team preference).

If you were to include the college relievers from the 2008 class, the overall talent gap would close. Lindblom and Cashner were both players viewed as strong candidates to be switched to the rotation, so if we pretended they were drafted as such, they would compare favorably with Dyson and Wilson as starting pitching prospects. Come to think of it, I wonder if there is a comp to be made between Lindblom and Dyson. That might be worth looking into…but now I’m merely thinking out loud, a sure sign it’s time to wrap this up.

In conclusion…wait, I have no real conclusion. Hmm. In conclusion, 2009 looks like a better year for top end college righthanded starting pitching, but when the 09’s are headed up by Stephen Strasburg and three other potential top ten picks, that’s hardly much of a conclusion at all. I’m willing to concede that the depth between the two classes is pretty close in talent-level, but I’d still give the edge to 2009…though there is still plenty of time left between now and June to sort out who constitutes the “depth” of which we speak of in the 2009 Draft. My real conclusion is actually 100% unrelated to college righthanded pitching prospects. I thought of a pretty good comp for a potential top ten pick the other day, but I’m not all the way there with it just yet, if you know what I mean. It’s not quite a fully developed idea, but I’ll just throw it out there here so I can have it on the record…Grant Green (Southern Cal, SS) and Jason Donald (Arizona, Phillies, SS/3B/2B). Am I crazy in thinking they have similar enough profiles to compare the two?

2009 MLB Draft: Top 15 College Righthanded Pitchers – Number 1, Stephen Strasburg

Photo Credit: yoda1 from minorleagueball.com

Photo Credit: yoda1 from minorleagueball.com

20.1 IP 13 H 4 ER 4 BB 45 K (2 WP, 1 HBP)

K/9: 19.92

K/BB: 11.25/1

Strikeouts – Swinging/Looking: 36/9

GO/AO/LO: 7/5/2

There has been only one inning this year that Strasburg hasn’t struck out at least one batter, including the two partial innings he has thrown in each start (each 2/3rds of an inning). He has struck out the side in 8 out of his 19 completed innings. He’s good.

2009 MLB Draft: Top 15 College Righthanded Pitchers (5-2)

Better late than never, right? The righthanded pitchers listed below comprise 5 of the top 8 prospects ranked on the College Big Board 1.0. If you’re a fan of a team picking in the top half of round one, these are five names to know forwards and backwards. We continue the countdown of college righthanded starting pitching prospects with the players ranked 5 through 2 (who will be number one??????)…after the jump.  (more…)

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