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The Trouble With Draft-Eligible Sophomores (starring Jack Marder!)

One of the few downsides of running this quaint little one man operation is the occasional embarrassing misidentification of a prospect’s draft year. I had a big swing and a miss this year with a personal favorite of mine (though admittedly not as much of a favorite of the consistently excellent John Klima), Oregon’s Jack Marder. The draft-eligible sophomore went in the 16th round to Seattle, and can now been seen (not literally now, as he’s currently on the disabled list…and also not literally now because it is 5:30 AM local time in High Desert and, as wonderful a work ethic as I’m sure Marder has, I doubt he’s in the cage at this very moment) hitting an impressive .320/.382/.460 through 50 High A at bats for the High Desert Mavericks. He’s also apparently one of the ten Jewish ballplayers selected in the 2011 draft, as defined by the fine people of Jewish Baseball News. Feel free to use that fun fact to impress guests at your next soiree, free of charge. I’m in the process of eliminating 2011 draft guys from my 2012 college follow lists, so consider this Marder’s last stand here on the Baseball Draft Report. Pretend I was smart enough to publish my notes on him before the draft, please. I bet they would have looked exactly like this:

SO 2B Jack Marder (2012): average runner; legit plus bat speed; very instinctual, high energy, just a fun player to watch; plus defender at 1B, one of the best I’ve seen at college level; has experience playing every position on diamond; with time should be above-average at either second, third, or an outfield corner, as well as average at shortstop; strong arm; will be tried at C this spring (5/11 update: soft hands, plus mobility, well above-average pop times, natural footwork, accurate arm, positive reports on feel for pitch sequencing and leadership of staff); great line drive producing swing, textbook front shoulder rotation that I love; above-average athleticism; easy top ten round guy, could go as high as round five; 6-0, 180 pounds; R/R

Good luck in pro ball, Jack.

2011 MLB Draft Catcher Rankings Resource Page

For more on the top twenty college and high school 2011 catching prospects…

Final 2011 MLB Draft College Catcher Rankings

Final 2011 MLB Draft High School Catcher Rankings

…and for a combined top fifty list of all 2011 draft-eligible catching prospects, just scan downward a few centimeters with your eyeballs.

  1. C Blake Swihart (Cleveland HS, New Mexico)
  2. Oregon State SO C Andrew Susac
  3. C Eric Haase (Divine Child HS, Michigan)
  4. C Riley Moore (San Marcos HS, California)
  5. North Carolina State JR C Pratt Maynard
  6. C Elvin Soto (Xaverian HS, New York)
  7. Vanderbilt SR C Curt Casali
  8. Bethune-Cookman JR C Peter O’Brien
  9. C Garrett Boulware (TL Hanna HS, South Carolina)
  10. C Cameron Gallagher (Manheim Township HS, Pennsylvania)
  11. C Austin Hedges (JSerra HS, California)
  12. C Nicky Delmonico (Farragut HS, Tennessee)
  13. San Diego JR C Zach Kometani
  14. C Tyler Marlette (Hagerty HS, Florida)
  15. North Carolina JR C Jacob Stallings
  16. Oklahoma JR C Tyler Ogle
  17. C Grayson Greiner (Blythewood HS, South Carolina)
  18. Pittsburgh SR C Kevan Smith
  19. Arkansas JR C James McCann
  20. Virginia JR C John Hicks
  21. James Madison JR C Jake Lowery
  22. Arizona JR C Jett Bandy
  23. C Greg Bird (Grandview HS, Colorado)
  24. C Brandon Sedell (American Heritage HS, Florida)
  25. Stetson JR C Nick Rickles
  26. Tulane JR C Jeremy Schaffer
  27. College of Charleston JR C Rob Kral
  28. C BreShon Kimbell (Mesquite HS, Texas)
  29. C Brett Austin (Providence HS, North Carolina)
  30. C AJ Murray (Westfield HS, New Jersey)
  31. Western Kentucky SR C Matt Rice
  32. C Daniel Mengden (Westside HS, Texas)
  33. California JR C Chadd Krist
  34. Samford JR C Brandon Miller
  35. Central Florida JR C Beau Taylor
  36. C Taylor Nichols (Faith Academy, Alabama)
  37. C Hunter Lockwood (LD Bell HS, Texas)
  38. C Aramis Garcia (Pines Charter HS, Florida)
  39. C Dylan Delso (Broken Arrow HS, Oklahoma)
  40. Auburn SR C Tony Caldwell
  41. Chipola JC SO C Geno Escalante
  42. Kentucky JR C Mike Williams
  43. Florida JR C Ben McMahan
  44. C Bryce Mosier (Valhalla HS, California)
  45. Franklin Pierce JR C Mike Dowd
  46. C Kevin White (St. Anne’s Belfield HS, Virginia)
  47. C Connor Lynch (Pope HS, Georgia)
  48. Virginia SR C Kenny Swab
  49. East Carolina JR C Zach Wright
  50. C Drew Stiner (Owasso HS, Oklahoma)

Final 2011 MLB Draft College Catcher Rankings

1. Oregon State SO C Andrew Susac

The biggest takeaway from Susac’s outstanding 2011 season: beware reading too much into small sample freshman year stats, especially when judging a first year college guy’s numbers to those of sophomores and juniors. Susac’s freshman year struggles are but a distant memory at this point. My biggest preseason concern with Susac was his inconsistent defense behind the plate. For a player praised as a college-ready receiver back in his original draft year, I was surprised how raw he looked defensively last year, at least in the early going. Employing the “wait and see” approach that I typically despise was a poor decision on my end. Susac really put it all together this year, showing improvements in all phases of the game – increased power, much better plate discipline, and, most importantly, way more polish catching and throwing. The hamate injury is a mild concern, but it would be a shock if it kept him from being the top college catcher off the board. In a weird way, the injury could be a blessing in disguise for Susac’s draft stock – all the scouts who have already seen him have walked away happy and his excellent numbers stand up just fine as is. The only thing keeping him out of the first round (or, more conservatively, the comp round) could be his signability, though that’s just speculation on my part.

*** 2010: .292/.420/.396 – 16 BB/21 K – 96 AB
*** 2011: .367/.504/.643 – 25 BB/25 K – 98 AB

2. North Carolina State JR C Pratt Maynard

In an effort to show more power, Maynard’s been more aggressive at the plate this year. I wonder if his positional versatility will help or hurt him in the eyes of pro scouts. He reminds me a little bit of a less athletic Ryan Ortiz, former Oregon State star and current A’s prospect. Ortiz was a sixth rounder in his draft year; that seems like a plausible outcome for Maynard at this point.

*** 2010: .263/.449/.464 – 66/41 BB/K – 209 AB
*** 2011: .346/.431/.509 – 32 BB/37 K – 214 AB

3. Vanderbilt SR C Curt Casali

Every game Casali plays is one game further removed from 2009 Tommy John surgery. The difference it has made in his defense behind the plate (more than just big league ready – he’d be in the upper half defensively of pro catchers) and his offense at the plate (near-plus raw power and a phenomenal whole field approach) give him the look of a future big leaguer to me. It is a rare senior that warrants draft consideration before round five, but Casali is an exception. Love this guy.

*** 2010: .343/.478/.577 – 34 BB/30 K – 175 AB
*** 2011: .311/.389/.467 – 14 BB/13 K – 180 AB

4. Bethune-Cookman JR C Peter O’Brien

Kind of nice when a prospect does almost exactly what everybody expects. Big power, questionable approach, iffy defense…yeah, that’s O’Brien. He doesn’t typically fit the mold of a player I’d like, but O’Brien’s makeup, praised far and wide this spring, makes him an especially intriguing prospect to watch once he enters pro ball. O’Brien is a big lump of very talented, coachable clay. More than any other catcher on this list, he has that boom/bust factor working for him. Pro coaching could do wonders for him. Or his long swing and impatience at the plate will be further exposed against higher quality pitching. Intuitively, I’m more in step with the latter possibility than the former, but I’d love to be wrong.

*** 2010: .371/.432/.718 – 18 BB/40 K – 202 AB
*** 2011: .275/.354/.507 – 22 BB/49 K – 207 AB

5. San Diego JR C Zach Kometani

Some question Kometani’s future behind the plate, but that’s more of a matter of consistency than anything else. I maintain he has the hands and athleticism to turn himself into a pretty good catcher down the line. I’m a little surprised by his modest 2011 power showing because I think there’s more there.

*** 2010: .372/.454/.628 – 11 BB/11 K – 94 AB
*** 2011: .371/.414/.532 – 9 BB/18 K – 186 AB

6. North Carolina JR C Jacob Stallings

There is no question about Stallings’s plus defense; that alone could be his ticket to the show as a backup catcher. Like Kometani, there’s more raw power here than he has shown so far. Stallings isn’t really talked about as a top college catching prospect, but he’s a really talented prospect with a plus-plus arm that could make him an interesting mound conversion if things don’t work out behind the dish.

*** 2010: .336/.447/.493 – 28 BB/33 K – 140 AB
*** 2011: .275/.403/.401 – 41 BB/35 K – 182 AB

7. Oklahoma JR C Tyler Ogle

Big, big season so far for the very well-rounded Ogle. Pro-caliber defense, good arm, level line drive swing, and gap power. The only thing that could ding Ogle (and Bandy, a similarly talented prospect) is the lack of a standout tool. Many teams look for a plus tool — often arm strength or raw power — when they are in the market for college catching. Players who are solid across the board sometimes get overlooked. Ogle’s very consistent college production could help him appeal to more stat-oriented clubs picking in the top ten rounds.

*** 2010: .320/.425/.547 – 24 BB/24 K – 150 AB
*** 2011: .310/.435/.517 – 28 BB/30 K – 174 AB

8. Pittsburgh SR C Kevan Smith

Smith has been awesome at the plate and on the base paths (10/11 SB). It is great to see a player with such special physical gifts who is able to translate raw upside into big time college production. I never really have much of a clue how actual big league front offices view draft prospects and I haven’t heard any buzz about Smith’s draft stock, but I sure like him. Definitely on my short list of top senior signs.

*** 2010: .335/.399/.481 – 20 BB/15 K – 233 AB
*** 2011: .359/.438/.582 – 21 BB/15 K – 184 AB

9. Arkansas JR C James McCann

I was impressed with the much discussed McCann’s well above-average athleticism and solid speed (for a catcher) in my admittedly quick look at him. His hit tool and power tool both project to around average (45 to 55, depending on the day) and his defense is already professional quality. I know I’ve been considered a McCann hater at times, but I think his relatively high floor (big league backup) makes him a worthy pick within the first seven to ten rounds.

*** 2010: .286/.377/.441 – 19 BB/26 K – 213 AB
***2011: .300/.399/.482 – 24 BB/20 K – 170 AB

10. Virginia JR C John Hicks

Not too long ago I compared Hicks to teammate Kenny Swab and said I wouldn’t be surprised to see him take a similar career path, i.e. become an unsignable mid-round pick and go back to school as a senior to boost his stock. I was obviously wrong as it now seems Hicks’ athleticism, plus arm, and emerging power could make him a top ten round selection.

*** 2010: .313/.368/.513 – 17 BB/27 K  – 240 AB
*** 2011: .385/.432/.563 – 16 BB/13 K – 208 AB

11. James Madison JR C Jake Lowery

Lowery has a solid arm and is an above-average defender, but let’s be real here, it is the amazing power uptick that has scouts buzzing this spring.

*** 2010: .296/.372/.516 – 23 BB/40 K – 186 AB
*** 2011: .341/.437/.798 – 35 BB/39 K – 208 AB

12. Arizona JR C Jett Bandy

Hard to explain Bandy’s 2011 collapse, especially when you consider there has been no news of any down tick in his scouting reports. I’m not super concerned about the dip in production for that reason, but Bandy’s signability could become a question if he slips past the first five rounds as expected. He is still exactly the player I’d target past round ten. Even without knowing why he slipped so badly this year, I still think it is safe to say that he didn’t completely forget how to play baseball.

*** 2010: .336/.433/.516 – 22 BB/21 K – 223 AB
*** 2011: .232/.298/.305 – 6 BB/12 K – 177 AB

13. Stetson JR C Nick Rickles

The only negative I had on Rickles heading into the year was a report that his bat speed really tailed off as the year dragged on. Everything else checked out – good athleticism, a natural behind the plate with a great approach at it, and above-average power upside. Hitting close to .400 might not completely answer the bat speed question, but it is a clear step in the right direction.

*** 2010: .293/.331/.413 – 14 BB/23 K – 225 AB
*** 2011: .392/.455/.694 – 23 BB/7 K – 209 AB

14. Tulane JR C Jeremy Schaffer

Schaffer is a really underrated athlete with ample raw power and great physical strength who might not play the brand of defense pro teams desire. That was the word before the season. Most of the reports I’ve gotten on his 2011 defense indicate he’s getting a teeny bit better every day.

*** 2010: .303/.375/.566 – 21 BB/24 K – 175 AB
*** 2011: .418/.511/.693 – 34 BB/25 K – 189 AB

15. College of Charleston JR C Rob Kral

Kral’s defense is the big concern, but there are no doubts whatsoever about the bat. Unfortunately, Kral doesn’t have the luxury of moving off catcher due to his lack of height and mobility. He reminds a little bit of Eric Arce in that way. I think his draft ceiling might be right around where Dan Black of Purdue went in 2009 (16th round). Should be no surprise that a guy with that kind of plate discipline qualifies as a personal favorite of mine.

*** 2010: .353/.493/.623 – 60 BB/32 K – 215 AB
*** 2011: .333/.485/.561 – 53 BB/23 K – 180 AB

16. Western Kentucky SR C Matt Rice

Rice is a definite riser in my mind; very little chance he winds up as 2011′s Mr. Irrelevant (last overall pick in draft) like he was in 2010. He’s still a late-rounder, but he makes a lot of sense in the larger context of the draft. Sure, the ultimate goal is to draft as many potential big league contributors as possible. We all know that much. Come rounds 25 and on, however, you’re mixing and matching prep athletes with upside and signability questions and org players needed to fill out minor league rosters. Rice strikes me as a perfect org guy – great teammate, wonderful influence on his peers, and not totally devoid of talent in his own right.

*** 2010: .349/.431/.552 – 32 BB/46 K – 241 AB
*** 2011: .344/.419/.530 – 30 BB/34 K – 215 AB

17. California JR C Chadd Krist

Krist’s defense has been dinged as inconsistent in the past, but having seen him play a couple times in 2011 I have to say I think he’s underrated behind the plate. His arm might not rate above average and his power upside is limited, but he does enough just well enough to have backup catcher upside.

*** 2010: .375/.454/.661 – 27 BB/40 K – 192 AB
*** 2011: .335/.417/.491 – 24 BB/26 K – 173 AB

18. Samford JR C Brandon Miller

Key word in Miller’s scouting reports has been “inconsistent.” He has a strong arm, but very inconsistent accuracy. He has intriguing defensive tools, but inconsistent footwork limits him. Good bat speed, but inconsistent swing setup leads to a too long swing that leaves him exposed by high velocity arms. Good catching could fix this. Or not.

*** 2010: .361/.406/.533 – 13 BB/23 K – 244 AB
*** 2011: .297/.396/.651 – 26 BB/40 K – 172 AB

19. Central Florida JR C Beau Taylor

Taylor’s scouting profile reminds me a great deal of James McCann’s – great defense, flashes of power, better than average plate discipline.

*** 2010: .359/.433/.566 – 23 BB/31 K – 198 AB
*** 2011: .342/.412/.466 – 22 BB/22 K – 193 AB

20. Auburn SR C Tony Caldwell

I had Caldwell pegged as an all defense, no offense non-prospect heading into the year, but his hit tool has made a great deal of progress since last Fall. Even without the emerging bat, Caldwell’s defense might have been enough to get him drafted.

*** 2010: .365/.430/.587 – 18 BB/45 K – 189 AB
*** 2011: 341/.462/.535 – 30 BB/29 K – 170 AB

College Catchers Revisited 2.0 – 2011 MLB Draft

I wanted to follow up on last week’s post comparing the preseason ranking of college catchers with what they’ve done so far in 2011. That post looked at the top ten ranked players only; today we check on the catchers ranked 11-30. All stats come once again from College Splits with the exception of the junior college and DII numbers. Players aren’t listed in any particular order, other than being grouped together for my personal convenience.

(I’m still working out some kinks on the redesign. I like it well enough so far, but there are things I want to improve on. Pretty sure I don’t like that only one post shows up at a time, I think the text looks a little squished, and the tools in the background might be a little a) esoteric, or b) straight up ugly…haven’t decided yet. If anybody has any thoughts, feel free to comment or email me…I’m pretty useless when it comes to this kind of stuff, so any input, nice or not so nice, is welcomed.)

  • Arkansas JR C James McCann: 296/396/478 (17 BB/13 K)
  • California JR C Chadd Krist: 368/442/552 (17 BB/20 K)
  • Auburn SR C Tony Caldwell: 315/426/537 (17 BB/21 K)
  • Virginia JR C John Hicks: 379/429/522 (12 BB/12 K)
  • Georgetown SR C Erick Fernandez: 330/414/539 (10 BB/12 K)

I’d argue that all of the players above are doing just about what most followers of the draft (i.e. dorks like me) thought they would do in 2011. In other words, if you liked one of these guys before the year, chances are you like him just the same, if not a smidgen more, right about now. I was impressed with the much discussed McCann’s well above-average athleticism and solid speed (for a catcher) in my admittedly quick look at him.

Florida JR C Ben McMahan only has 39 at bats so far. While I still believe in him from a scouting standpoint, his aggressive ranking looks like a big swing and miss at this point. Taylor Hightower was another potential sleeper heading into the year who I still hold out hope for, but have to admit has left me feeling a little down on my prognosticating abilities. His numbers (.305/.414/.424 – 8 BB/12 K) are an improvement over his disastrous 2010 stats, but, like fellow SEC member McMahan, he just doesn’t have the plate appearances to draw any conclusions one way or another. Still think both guys play big league caliber defense, a talent good enough to at least warrant backup big league catcher upside, but improvement with the bat will ultimately determine their respective ceilings.

UCLA JR C Steve Rodriguez and Central Florida JR C Beau Taylor have both suffered from a power outage so far in 2011. I tend to be crazy optimistic on almost every player’s draft stock, but it seems like both Rodriguez and Taylor won’t have much of a choice but to return to school in 2012. Nothing wrong with getting that degree, of course.

Pittsburgh SR C Kevan Smith: 387/463/621 (14 BB/10 K)

Smith has been awesome at the plate (see above) and on the base paths (10/10 SB). It is great to see a player with such special physical gifts who is able to translate raw upside into big time college production. I never really have much of a clue how actual big league front offices view draft prospects and I haven’t heard any buzz about Smith’s draft stock, but I sure like him. Definitely on my short list of top senior signs.

College of Charleston JR C Rob Kral: 342/509/542 (43 BB/15 K)

Kral’s defense is the big concern, but there are no doubts whatsoever about the bat. Unfortunately, Kral doesn’t have the luxury of moving off catcher due to his lack of height and mobility. He reminds a little bit of Eric Arce in that way. I think his draft ceiling might be right around where Dan Black of Purdue went in 2009 (16th round). Should be no surprise that a guy with that kind of plate discipline qualifies as a personal favorite of mine.

Wofford JR C Mac Doyle: 298/398/582 (16 BB/30 K)

Doyle’s always had a bit of an “all or nothing” swing and this year is no different.

Michigan JR C Coley Crank: 273/367/479 (15 BB/34 K)

One of my updated reports on Crank reads simply: “Gets in his own way defensively; feasts on average or worse fastballs and nothing else.” Not super encouraging…

  • LSU-Eunice FR C Hommy Rosado: 355/467/600 (20 BB/29 K)
  • Chipola JC SO C Geno Escalante: 357/416/545 (9 BB/17 K)
  • Franklin Pierce JR C Mike Dowd: 378/432/593 (12 BB/4 K)

It’s tricky to put junior college numbers in context, but let’s try. That .355 BA looks wonderful, and I take nothing away from it, but keep in mind Rosado is only sixth on his team in terms of batting average. However, he’s second on the team in SLG. He’s also incorrectly placed on this list, as it turns out, seeing as he’s played almost exclusively at third this spring. With 10 errors and below-average range at the hot corner, he’s likely a man without a position. Next stop, first base. Escalante is the other junior college guy on the list; his numbers are obviously a notch below Rosado’s even with his added year of post-high school experience. Dowd, our lone Division II star on the list, has managed the strike zone brilliantly for Franklin Pierce while also ranking second among qualifiers in both BA and SLG. His arm may be his only above-average tool, but his bat, gap power, and defense should all play just fine at the next level.

Samford JR C Brandon Miller: 318/397/742 (16 BB/27 K)

Tulane JR C Jeremy Schaffer: 410/471/669 (13 BB/16 K)

Miller is a really underrated athlete with ample raw power and great physical strength, but, like so many near the bottom of these rankings, might not play the brand of defense pro teams seek out this time of year. You could probably say the same about Schaeffer, except the reports I’ve gotten on his defense all indicate he’s getting a teeny bit better every day.

Western Kentucky SR C Matt Rice: 348/432/529 (25 BB/22 K)

Rice is a definite riser in my mind; very little chance he winds up as 2011’s Mr. Irrelevant (last overall pick in draft) like he was in 2010. He’s still a late-rounder, but he makes a lot of sense in the larger context of the draft. Sure, the ultimate goal is to draft as many potential big league contributors as possible. We all know that much. Come rounds 25 and on, however, you’re mixing and matching prep athletes with upside and signability questions and org players needed to fill out minor league rosters. Rice strikes me as a perfect org guy – great teammate, wonderful influence on his peers, and not totally devoid of talent in his own right.

Virginia SR C Kenny Swab: 327/481/446 (22 BB/19 K) 9/9 SB

Swab is a personal favorite from last year that I consistently overrate. Love his mix of plate discipline, above-average pop, and defensive versatility.

College Catchers Revisited – 2011 MLB Draft

All of these rankings are based on where I had each guy preseason. Comments reflect present draft stock. Any revised list of top college catchers almost certainly wouldn’t include CJ Cron and Peter O’Brien (both safe bets to move to 1B professionally) and would begin with Andrew Susac. My real quick top five might go: 1. Andrew Susac, 2. Curt Casali, 3. Zach Kometani, 4. Jacob Stallings, and 5. Tyler Ogle. Subject to change, of course…

All park/league adjusted stats courtesy of the invaluable College Splits.

***

1. Utah JR C/1B CJ Cron: 513/571/850 (14 BB/11 K)

Cron’s numbers sync up well with his scouting reports. I may be in the minority, but I actually like his pure hit tool more than I like his power. Either way, both are above-average tools. That’s the good news. The bad news is that they are his only above-average tools. Again, I find myself in the minority in thinking he could at least be a passable catcher at the next level, but I’ll concede to the experts on that one. Looks like Cron will be the first first baseman off the board, college or high school.

2. San Diego JR C Zach Kometani: 344/385/489 (7 BB/12 K)

This super aggressive ranking of Kometani has held up pretty well, I think. His 2011 numbers are at least as good, if not better, than any other member of the top ten lower than him besides Susac and Ogle. Alright, that’s a lot of qualifiers, but I have to defend my guy, right? Some question his future behind the plate, but that’s more of a matter of consistency than anything else. I maintain he has the hands and athleticism to turn himself into a pretty good catcher down the line. I’m a little surprised by his modest 2011 power showing because I think there’s more there.

3. Bethune-Cookman JR C/1B Peter O’Brien: 299/382/604 (17 BB/34 K)

Kind of nice when a prospect does almost exactly what everybody expects. Big power, questionable approach, iffy defense…yeah, that’s O’Brien. He doesn’t typically fit the mold of a player I’d like, but O’Brien’s makeup, praised far and wide this spring, makes him an especially intriguing prospect to watch once he enters pro ball. O’Brien is a big lump of very talented, coachable clay. More than any other catcher on this list, he has that boom/bust factor working for him. Pro coaching could do wonders for him. Or his long swing and impatience at the plate will be further exposed against higher quality pitching. Intuitively, I’m more in step with the latter possibility than the former, but I’d love to be wrong.

4. Arizona JR C Jett Bandy: 272/329/346 (5 BB/11 K)

Hard to explain Bandy’s 2011 collapse, especially when you consider there has been no news of any down tick in his scouting reports. I’m not super concerned about the dip in production for that reason, but Bandy’s signability could become a question if he slips past the first five rounds.

5. Vanderbilt SR C Curt Casali: 354/438/504 (12 BB/11 K)

Every game Casali plays is one game further removed from 2009 Tommy John surgery. The difference it has made in his defense behind the plate (more than just big league ready – he’d be in the upper half defensively of pro catchers) and his offense at the plate (near-plus raw power and a phenomenal whole field approach) give him the look of a future big leaguer to me. It is a rare senior that warrants draft consideration before round five, but Casali is an exception. Love this guy.

6. North Carolina State JR C Pratt Maynard: 336/433/473 (25 BB/27 K)

In an effort to show more power, Maynard’s been more aggressive at the plate this year. I wonder if his positional versatility will help or hurt him in the eyes of pro scouts. He reminds me a little bit of a less athletic Ryan Ortiz, former Oregon State star and current A’s prospect. Ortiz was a sixth rounder in his draft year; that seems like a plausible outcome for Maynard at this point.

7. North Carolina JR C Jacob Stallings: 300/435/431 (33 BB/23 K)

There is no question about Stallings’s plus defense; that alone could be his ticket to the show as a backup catcher. Like Kometani, there’s more raw power here than he has shown so far. Stallings isn’t really talked about as a top college catching prospect, but he’s a really talented prospect with a plus-plus arm that could make him an interesting mound conversion if things don’t work out behind the dish.

8. Oregon State SO C Andrew Susac: 420/547/682 (23 BB/21 K)

The biggest takeaway from Susac’s outstanding 2011 season: beware reading too much into small sample freshman year stats, especially when judging a first year college guy’s numbers to those of sophomores and juniors. Susac’s freshman year struggles are but a distant memory at this point. My biggest preseason concern with Susac was his inconsistent defense behind the plate. For a player praised as a college-ready receiver back in his original draft year, I was surprised how raw he looked defensively last year, at least in the early going. Employing the “wait and see” approach that I typically despise was a poor decision on my end. Susac really put it all together this year, showing improvements in all phases of the game – increased power, much better plate discipline, and, most importantly, way more polish catching and throwing. The hamate injury is a mild concern, but it would be a shock if it kept him from being the top college catcher off the board. In a weird way, the injury could be a blessing in disguise for Susac’s draft stock – all the scouts who have already seen him have walked away happy and his excellent numbers stand up just fine as is. The only thing keeping him out of the first round (or, more conservatively, the comp round) could be his signability, though that’s just speculation on my part.

9. Oklahoma JR C Tyler Ogle: 367/483/617 (20 BB/22 K)

Big, big season so far for the very well-rounded Ogle. Pro-caliber defense, good arm, level line drive swing, and gap power. The only thing that could ding Ogle (and Bandy, a similarly talented prospect) is the lack of a standout tool. Many teams look for a plus tool — often arm strength or raw power — when they are in the market for college catching. Players who are solid across the board sometimes get overlooked. Ogle’s very consistent college production could help him appeal to more stat-oriented clubs picking in the top ten rounds.

10. Kentucky JR C Mike Williams: 262/342/449 (11 BB/18 K)

His BB/K ratio may not seem impressive, but Williams has come a long way in a short time. He is the antithesis of the player ranked right above him. Plus-plus arm and plus raw power will continue to get him looks, even as his hit tool lags behind other players in his class.

Best Bats of College Baseball’s Opening Weekend (2/18/11 to 2/20/11)

1. Arguably the biggest story to come out of college baseball’s opening weekend (from a prospect standpoint…and before news of Stanford JR LHP Brett Mooneyham’s season-ending finger injury came to the surface) centered on the decision to have Vanderbilt JR 3B Jason Esposito play shortstop. Bigger still, he went out and played it well. Fun question of the day: if Esposito can show to scouts that he can at least play a league average big league shortstop, then he’ll go [fill-in-the-blank] in the 2011 MLB Draft. Top half of the first round, no doubt…right? Top ten? Higher? I know Ryan Zimmerman is the name often thrown around when talking Rice JR 3B Anthony Rendon, but I think it is a really natural comparison for Esposito.

2. Other notable position “switches”: LSU 3B FR JaCoby Jones played 2B, Tulane JR C Jeremy Schaffer played 3B (a spot where he has some prior experience), and Washington SR 1B Troy Scott played 3B (ditto). Schaffer and Scott are mid-round guys here in 2011, but Jones has first round upside in 2013. I want to sit down and do preliminary rankings for 2012 and 2013 sometime before this June.  In a vacuum, Jones has top ten potential, but I’ll need to see where he stacks up in what looks to be a strong 2013 draft class.

3. The LSU staff has three years to move JaCoby Jones around the infield, and, as mentioned, Schaffer and Scott are mid-round guys at best. That leaves the position switch with the most immediate and significant draft prospect consequence as the move of Utah JR C CJ Cron playing first base all weekend long. The switch was not entirely unexpected – Cron’s defense behind the plate has never been his strong suit, plus he has played 1B for the Utes in the past – but the buzz surrounding it makes it seem less and less likely that Cron will don the tools of ignorance much at all in 2011.

A few completely random interesting hitting lines of the weekend, complete with equally random commentary…

College of Charleston JR “C” Rob Kral (2011): 667/714/778 (6-9, 2B, RBI, 5 R, 4 BB/0 K)

  • Kral may not be a catcher professionally, but, man, can he hit. Great patience and great power typically leads to great things…

North Carolina State JR C Pratt Maynard (2011): 538/571/692 (7-13, 2 2B, 5 RBI, 3 R)

Mississippi SR C Miles Hamblin (2011): 444/643/778  (4-9, HR, 4 RBI, 4 R, 3 BB/3 K, 3/3 SB)

Oklahoma SO 2B Max White (2012): 467/556/667 (7-15, 3 2B, 6 R, 4 RBI, 3 HBP, 1/1 SB)

  • As great as that line looks, White’s defense at second drew the most praise over the weekend. Pretty amazing considering White is a converted outfield learning the position as he goes.

Tennessee JR 2B Khayyan Norfork (2011): 556/667/1.222 (5-9, HR, 3B, 2B, 4 RBI, 3 R, 1/2 SB)

  • I ignored all of the positive buzz coming out of Tennessee’s fall/winter practices and, even though it has only been one weekend, I regret it. I did say this: “Khayyan Norfork might just be the player primed to make the biggest rise up draft boards of the players listed.” Really nice blend of speed, pop, and defense…

Florida SO SS Nolan Fontana (2012): 750/786/833 (9-12, 2B, 5 R, 2 HBP, K, 1/1 SB)

Clemson JR SS Brad Miller (2011): 375/643/375 (3-8, 5 R, 2 RBI, 6 BB/0 K, 4/4 SB)

  • Didn’t have the power numbers of many players on the list, but easy to love that BB/K ratio.

Texas Tech JR SS Kelby Tomlinson (2011): 583/667/583 (7-12, 6 RBI, 3 R, 5 BB/1 K, 5/6 SB)

Arizona State JR 3B Riccio Torrez (2011): 462/462/1.231 (6-13, 3 HR, 2B, 7 RBI, 4 R, 2-2 SB)

Oklahoma JR 3B Garrett Buechele (2011): 625/700/1.188 (10-16, 3 HR, 5 RBI, 4 R)

Texas A&M JR 3B Matt Juengel (2011): 455/500/1.364 (5-11, 2 HR, 2 3B, 7 RBI, 5 R)

Texas FR 3B Erich Weiss (2013): 818/824/1.273 (9-11, 2 3B, 2B, 7 RBI, 6 R, 5 BB/0 K, 1/1 SB)

Southern Carolina JR OF Jackie Bradley (2011): 583/615/1.083 (7-12, HR, 3 2B, 3 RBI, 4 R)

UAB JR OF Jamal Austin (2011): 462/462/538 (6-13, 2B, RBI, 2 R, 3/4 SB)

Kent State SR OF Ben Klafczynski (2011): 538/571/538 (7-13, RBI, 2 R)

Stanford FR OF Austin Wilson (2013): 500/500/750 (6-12, HR, 4 RBI, R, 1/1 SB)

  • With the first pick in the 2013 MLB Draft, the New York Yankees select…

LSU JR OF Mikie Mahtook (2011): 444/545/1.778 (4-9, 4 HR, 6 RBI, 6 R)

  • I tried to limit the list to one player per college, but leaving fellow Tigers JaCoby Jones and Tyler Hanover off pained me greatly. Mahtook’s decision to only hit home runs could really pay off this year…

Honorable Mention! Virginia SR C Kenny Swab (2011): 000/571/000 (0-6, 5 R, 6 BB, 2 HBP, 2/2 SB)

Honorable Mention 2.0! Any JMU player. Five different players slugged over 1.100 over the weekend: Tenaglia, Herbek, Foltz, Knight, and Lowery. I was most impressed with SO OF Johnny Bladel’s 533/720/733 (6/3 BB/K and 5/5 SB) line. He’s my very early super sneaky 2012 first round possibility.

2011 MLB Draft – Top 30 College Catcher Follow List

I’m pretty sure this is my favorite list so far because of how wide open it is. For the sake of discussion, let’s say the consensus industry top five consists of Cron, O’Brien, Bandy, Susac, and McCann, in some order. Assuming that’s true, how much really separates the sixth best prospect (using my list as a guide, that could be Kometani, Casali, Maynard) from a prospect currently ranked in the mid- to late-teens (any of the smaller school prospects work, so insert names like Rosado, Dowd, and Escalante here)? Without getting too much into my relatively low ranking of McCann (for now), I can at least acknowledge that this general viewpoint (the lack of separation between any two prospects within the top 20ish) played a large role.

Judging catching is also fun because it opens up the always entertaining debate of floor vs. ceiling. Top ranked CJ Cron has a high ceiling (plus bat, capable catcher), but a low floor (if it turns out he can’t catch as a pro, will the bat play anywhere else?). Steve Rodriguez, a player ranked way down at 17th, has a much lower ceiling (plus defender, just enough bat to play everyday), but a more traditional backup catcher skill set that should serve him well when teams come looking for a cheap, defense-first backup catcher. What an interesting group of catchers…

  1. Utah JR C CJ Cron
  2. San Diego JR C Zach Kometani
  3. Bethune-Cookman JR C Peter O’Brien
  4. Arizona JR C Jett Bandy
  5. Vanderbilt SR C Curt Casali
  6. North Carolina State JR C Pratt Maynard
  7. North Carolina JR C Jacob Stallings
  8. Oregon State SO C Andrew Susac
  9. Oklahoma JR C Tyler Ogle
  10. Kentucky JR C Mike Williams
  11. Florida JR C Ben McMahan
  12. Pittsburgh SR C Kevan Smith
  13. California JR C Chadd Krist
  14. College of Charleston JR C Rob Kral
  15. LSU-Eunice FR C Hommy Rosado
  16. Arkansas JR C James McCann
  17. UCLA JR C Steve Rodriguez
  18. Franklin Pierce JR C Mike Dowd
  19. Chipola JC SO C Geno Escalante
  20. Central Florida JR C Beau Taylor
  21. Tulane JR C Jeremy Schaffer
  22. Samford JR C Brandon Miller
  23. Virginia JR C John Hicks
  24. Georgetown SR C Erick Fernandez
  25. Wofford JR C Mac Doyle
  26. Michigan JR C Coley Crank
  27. Western Kentucky SR C Matt Rice
  28. Virginia SR C Kenny Swab
  29. Auburn SR C Tony Caldwell
  30. Mississippi JR C Taylor Hightower

2011 MLB Draft – Top 30 College Catcher Follow List (Honorable Mentions)

Though generally regarded as one of the weakest, if not the weakest, position groups of this year’s college class, this year’s crop of college catching intrigues me all the same. What the 2011 catching group lacks in sure fire first round talent it makes up for it with tremendous depth. If it is a future backup catcher you want, this is the class for you. I think I’ve talked about this before, but my theory on what teams look for in a good backup catcher is simple. Teams look for a) all or nothing hitters with plus power, b) acclaimed defenders, typically with plus arms, and c) well-rounded prospects with scouting grades between 40 to 50 (roughly) in at least four of the five graded tools. I realize that describes a wide range of prospects, but it’s all I’ve got for now. Here are a few of the players who just missed the top 30…

  • Cal State Bakersfield JR C Jeremy Rodriguez | tremendous plate discipline, but no standout physical tools
  • Valdosta State JR C Christian Glisson | former Georgia Bulldog offers well-rounded tool set with solid defense, line drive producing swing, and enough power to keep pitchers honest
  • North Carolina State SR C Chris Schaeffer | similar to Glisson, but swing will need some adjusting at next level
  • Baylor JR C Joey Hainsfurther | converted infielder needs more experience behind plate; despite this, shows very good defensive tools
  • Stetson JR C Nick Rickles | natural receiver, but bat speed has been questioned
  • Mississippi SR C Miles Hamblin | once touted by me as a potential top three round candidate (Spring ’09), still shows above-average raw power and average defensive ability
  • Pepperdine JR C Nate Johnson | possesses one of the sweetest swings in college ball
  • Arizona State SR C Xorge Carrillo | heads into 2011 healthy and looking to get drafted for a fourth time
  • East Carolina JR C Zach Wright | strong arm, untapped upside in bat
  • Central Arizona SO C Max Rossiter | on short list of top 2011 junior college position players; like his bat more than fellow JC prospect Hornback
  • San Jacinto SO C Ryan Hornback | on short list on top 2011 junior college position players; like his glove/arm more than fellow JC prospect Rossiter
  • Fordham SR C Chris Walker | coming off really strong junior season (393/440/607 – 17 BB/16 K – 219 AB)
  • Marshall SR C Victor Gomez | big fastball hitting power hitter with some questions about his eventual defensive home
  • East Tennessee State JR C Derek Trent | quick bat and above-average athleticism
  • James Madison JR C Jake Lowery | productive, good defender
  • Illinois JR C Adam Davis | as much potential as any to rise up boards this spring; plus throwing arm with plus upside as defender
  • Miami JR C David Villasuso | similar profile as Gomez, big power/strong arm/may or may not have hands to catch regularly
  • Connecticut SR C Joe Pavone | outside candidate for spot near the bottom of top 30 before tearing his ACL last week
  • Florida State SR C Rafael Lopez | excellent prep player who has been merely good collegiately
  • Texas A&M SR C Kevin Gonzalez | outstanding defender with limited upside with bat; made great strides with stick in 2010, so continued development can’t be ruled out

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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