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Tampa Bay Rays 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Rays 2011 MLB Draft Selections

Seriously, what can you say? 12 picks in the draft’s top 89 turned into 8 prospects in my personal top 79 and 14 total players within my top 166 list. Even if you think my list is garbage or don’t like being manipulated with arbitrary endpoints (what, top 166’s aren’t the norm?), you have to admit that Tampa walked away with quite a haul this past June. The biggest prize from draft day was first round pick Spring Valley HS (SC) RHP Taylor Guerrieri. Guerrieri has everything you want in a young pitching prospect. Feels like I’ve said that about a few 2011 arms so far. Just when I begin to think I’m being too optimistic about He throws hard yet easy, shows signs of a plus breaking ball, and repeats his mechanics as well as any teenager in pro ball. He also has a long track record of holding his velocity late into games to go along with a much shorter but still promising history of improved overall command.

RHP Taylor Guerrieri (North Augusta HS, South Carolina): 87-90 FB last summer until sudden 97 peak this spring; now sitting 93-94 due to added physical strength with a consistent peak of 97-98, holds velocity late as well as any prep pitcher I remember; FB has plus life; emerging 77-83 CB with plus upside that has turned into a weapon already; heavy FB; very low effort mechanics; FB command greatly improved; mid-80s SL with upside; will show CU with upside and cutter; 6-3, 195 (up from 180)

This is the first thing I ever wrote about Louisiana State OF Mikie Mahtook for this site: “Mikie Mahtook is white. I don’t know why that surprises me, but it does. It really does. I’m not proud of this fact.” Yeah, I was/am a dope. The unintentional but still weak admission embarrasses me to this day. That’s not to say I still don’t occasionally associate certain names with mental images – I blame society for that, in addition to all my other flaws – but I have made a conscious effort since then not to jump to any kind of unfortunate and unnecessary racial conclusions based solely on an individual’s name. Ah, feels good to get that off my chest. No matter what color he is, Mahtook is a really good prospect with one of the higher floors of any 2011 position player. He doesn’t have a single weak tool – maybe his speed/range in center will slip as he ages and bulks up, but both are presently average at worst – while possessing the right mix of power upside and athleticism that tends to get a guy noticed. Mahtook also gets bonus points from me for being a tools-first player who lived up to the hype collegiately; the year-to-year progression from tools to skills was easily seen to anybody lucky enough to watch him play from high school to his junior season at LSU. From a production/skill set standpoint, two comps that I think are fun: peak years Angel Pagan (’09 and ’10 mostly) and 2011 Melky Cabrera (but hopefully with a little more plate discipline).

[above-average to plus speed; good defender; above-average to plus arm; big power potential, but swing holds him back; excellent athlete; good approach; great athlete; 6-1, 195 pounds]

Sierra Vista HS (NV) SS Jake Hager is caught in between two worlds. On one hand, he’s a player with a well-deserved reputation as a throwback scrappy grinder gym rat who always gives 110% and leaves it all out on the field. The guy plays his butt off every game and practice. Hager has worked very hard to get to this point in his career.  If we can now ignore my lame attempt at humor in the opening sentence, high effort and hard work are legitimate positives that ought to be lauded and, despite not being quantifiable, are correctly taken into consideration by all thirty MLB teams during pre-draft meetings. That said, man cannot live on scrap alone. Thankfully, on the other hand, Hager’s tools are pretty damn solid. He has tools that are good enough across the board that they ought to be the headliner while his dirtbag persona takes a backseat. Luckily for Tampa, they don’t have to choose between the two – they’ll get the best of both worlds. Hager’s defensive tools and skills (arm, footwork, pre-pitch positioning, and instincts) are particularly strong, especially if he moves to third base. If third is what the future holds, I really think his glove will be strong enough of a tool to carry him, perhaps as a player similar to Marlins prospect Matt Dominguez or fellow 2011 draftee Jason Esposito. If he can combine that with the offensive comp I heard on him pre-draft (the good version of Daric Barton), then you’ve got a star level player, right? I’m not proud of throwing back-to-back sentences beginning with “if” at you, but that kind of comes with the territory when talking prep prospects.

Hager is a shortstop on many team’s draft boards, but I prefer him as a potential defensive star at third base. His arm and reaction time are both perfectly suited for the hot corner. The only downside with moving him off short is the acknowledgement that his bat, specifically his power, profiles better as a middle infielder that at a corner. His approach to hitting and history of hitting with wood assuage some of those worries, but I understand the concern. I’ve heard a Daric Barton comp on his bat that I like.

I liked Santiago HS (CA) SS Brandon Martin just a touch better than Hager pre-draft. Nothing has happened since that has changed my opinion. I only bring it up to reiterate how close the two players were and are in my mind. The two guys are really similar players, so almost everything said about Hager above applies to Martin here. Martin gets the edge for me because of his slightly better chance of sticking at shortstop (total judgment call there – seems many like Hager as a shortstop way more than I do, and that’s cool) and a slightly more advanced to hitting (e.g. more patience and better pitch recognition). Tracking the progress of these two similar prospects will be a lot of fun in the coming years.

What stands out to me about Martin’s game is his approach to hitting. His speed is good, his arm is good, and the likelihood he sticks at shortstop is, well, good, but it is his potential plus hit tool and professional approach at the plate that separates him from the pack. Regular readers of the site probably realize that certain hitting-related buzzwords — approach, patience, maturity — get my attention more than others — aggressive being the first that comes to mind — and many of my favorites just so happen to be words that scouts often use to describe Martin.

Potential plus defense at the hot corner is what helps St. Francis HS (CA) 3B Tyler Goeddel stand out among the glut of infielders drafted by Tampa in 2011. His bat should play quite well at the position, and his athleticism, quick release, and footwork will continue to earn him sterling reviews with the glove.

Fast rising Tyler Goeddel has emerged as one of the finest prep players in California this spring. He’s shown all five tools in game action, including a really strong hit tool. His arm, speed, and power are all average or better, and his pro frame gives him room to mature physically.

How can you not love Lower Columbia JC RHP Jeff Ames? He fits the classic plus fastball but little else potential shutdown reliever archetype better than any prospect in this year’s draft. One thing to watch: when Ames misses, he misses high. His fastball is really tough from about the elbows/letters down, but when he starts elevating the pitch, it becomes much, much easier to drive. If the Tampa staff can help him continue to progress cutting and sinking his fastball, he’s a keeper.

Lower Columbia JC SO RHP Jeff Ames: 92-95 FB, 97 peak; plus movement on FB; inconsistent offspeed stuff

The buzz on Shorewood HS (WA) LHP Blake Snell grew and grew as the spring progressed. Unfortunately, that buzz wasn’t particularly positive as many scouts and front office types came away believing college might be best for Snell’s long-term outlook. Whether or not the college route was the right course of action is a moot point; Snell is a professional and there’s no looking back now. The flashes he showed as a high school senior – lefties who hit 94 are nothing to sneeze at – give some hope that he’ll flourish as a pro, but he’s not one of my personal favorites from this class due to his lack of any consistent offspeed offering.

LHP Blake Snell (Shorewood HS, Washington): 86-90 FB, 92-94 peak; slow CB flashes above-average; average CU; less polished than expected; good athlete; 6-4, 190

For most of the spring I thought I was higher on Western Kentucky OF Kes Carter than most; that smug satisfaction blew up in my face once I saw I had actually underrated Carter’s upside, at least in terms of draft stock. Tampa selecting Carter in the supplemental first caught me by surprise – had him pegged somewhere between rounds 5-10, though closer to 5 than 10 – but it is easy to see why they liked him so high. His in-game play and consensus scouting reports both remind me of Shane Victorino. A quick search of the archives reveals that I like using Victorino as a comp. Previously compared to Shane Victorino by me: Jackie Bradley Jr. (but only if you are a believer in his bat) and Gary Brown (still like this one a lot). The Victorino comp is basically a proxy for the following: good speed, CF range, plus arm, strong OBP skills, and deceptive power upside. One big difference between Carter and Victorino at similar points in their development: Carter turns 22 in March and has 15 pro plate appearances while Victorino, he of the unusual minor league career path, still managed 1576 plate appearances by the same age. Probably unwise to compare a college draftee to a high school pick, but what’s done is done. Additionally, if you are into making size/power upside judgments (I’m not, but I don’t judge), keep in mind that Carter has a good five inches on Victorino. It should go without saying that the Victorino comp is Carter’s perfect world projection. Also, take the comp as something I find logical for the reasons listed, and not necessarily how I think things will go; intuitively, I just don’t have a very strong feeling about Carter ever becoming an impact player as a pro. I think his more realistic ceiling is as a high-level fourth outfielder. Then again, that’s the same ceiling many fans put on Victorino back in the day. Hmm…

[91 peak FB; plus arm; capable CF; little power at present, but raw power is there; above-average speed; 6-1, 190 pounds]

Pretty much everything about Vanderbilt LHP Grayson Garvin I feel like saying I’ve already said, but I’ll ramble on a bit because I’m a sucker for completeness. Garvin has retained the skills of a soft-tossing lefthander even though he suddenly started throwing much harder this past spring. I’m much more comfortable betting on a pitcher with a clear consistently above-average second pitch than Garvin shows, but he is well-rounded enough that a long career pitching at the back of a big league rotation seems well within reach. A more physical Paul Maholm, maybe?

Vanderbilt JR LHP Grayson Garvin: started 87-89 FB, 90-91 peak; sitting 89-92 now, 93-95 peak; good FB command; 70-73 CB with upside if thrown harder; now up to 73-75 and above-average pitch; average 77-80 CU with room for improvement, could be plus in time; cutter; SL; good athlete; outstanding control; 6-6, 220

Garvin is a classic pitchability lefty (love his FB command and overall control) who has just so happened to grow into above-average velocity from the left side. He doesn’t have a pitch that is a consistent out pitch, but both his curve and change flash above-average enough to give him the upside of a back of the rotation arm.

I can’t decide if Oakland Technical HS (CA) OF James Harris is the high school version of Kes Carter or if Carter is the college version of James Harris. Either way, the two prospects are fairly similar: strong glove, good speed, not much power upside. I prefer Harris based on his youth, superior range in center, and better speed. If you liked Carter because of his strong college production, more advanced hit tool, and an arm strong enough that he could be tried on the mound if need be, I wouldn’t call you crazy. Wrong, but not crazy…

[plus-plus range in CF; plus runner; plus athlete; limited raw power; bat has a long way to go; iffy arm; classic leadoff hitter approach]

It really is impossible to dislike Tampa’s 2011 draft. Sure, you can nitpick a couple selections here and there, but having 12 picks in the draft’s first 89 makes it really hard for a team to out and out blow it. I’m not really sure what it means then that Palmetto HS (FL) OF Granden Goetzman, Tampa’s eleventh overall pick but their first selection outside of the first round, is actually my favorite non- Guerrieri pick, but I think it is a good thing. There’s a really thin line that separates Goetzman from guys like Eierman, Goeddel, and Mahtook. The next tier of Martin, Hager, and Garvin isn’t really that big a step down, either. Of all those prospects, however, I’d take Goetzman over the rest. His pro debut (.173/.262/.213 in 75 AB) betrays his rawness, but you don’t draft a prospect like Goetzman for instant impact. Tampa drafted two similar prospects at different stages of their development in Kes Carter (college) and James Harris (high school). In Goetzman, they have a player with a wide tool base (55’s or better across the board) who reminds a lot of where Mikie Mahtook was as a prospect before enrolling at LSU.

[plus speed; plus raw power; arm enough for 3B or RF; raw; lots of range in CF; bat is raw, but quick; huge upside gamble; 6-3, 200]

With a name like Hawaii RHP Lenny Linsky’s, you are pretty much preordained to be a big league reliever, right? Lenny Linsky is just a great bullpen name. A true plus fastball due to outstanding velocity and movement (that phrase would be redundant if anybody in baseball used the word “velocity” correctly, but that’s a battle I’ve long given up on) is his bread and butter, but his unique hard cut slider is a legitimate weapon in its own right. My not so bold prediction of the day: it won’t be long before Linsky is closing in Tampa.

Hawaii JR RHP Lenny Linsky: 94-97 peak FB with plus sink; plus upper-80s cut SL

Warsaw HS (MO) OF Johnny Eierman’s much discussed move to the outfield could get his bat going a lot quicker than if he was left to fend for himself playing up the middle of the infield. I get that. But can you imagine his upside as an all-around ballplayer if he can stick at either short or second? I suppose he’d also provide plenty of value if he someday proves himself capable of handling center, but visions of Eierman turning two at the keystone keep dancing in my head.

Like Phillip Evans, Johnny Eierman’s a future professional second baseman with a chance of going in the first round. Also like Evans, Eierman has plus raw power, a plus arm, and plus defensive tools. His bat speed rivals that of any player in the class, college or pro, and his athleticism makes him an option at almost any position on the field. He’s an undeniably raw prospect with a complicated swing setup in need of some good old fashioned pro coaching, but if it all clicks for him he has easy big league All-Star upside.

Arizona State 3B Riccio Torrez represents what I think was Tampa’s attempt to make a “safe” college pick. So much of their draft was focused on upside that the potential reality of rolling snake eyes on all of their high school upside gambles, however small those odds may be, began creeping into the collective consciousness of their draft day decision makers. That’s one theory, at least. Guess it could also be possible that the Rays genuinely liked Torrez as a potential big leaguer someday. He does have some upside as an offense-first utility guy, but he’s never been a big personal favorite. For me, he’s a AAAA bat without quite enough value in his other tools (though, in fairness, versatility isn’t a tool yet he still deserves credit for it) to get him to the big leagues, at least not in any linear developmental path.

Torrez seems to finally have found a defensive home at third base. A team could draft him as a true third base prospect now and hope his bat grows into the role, or, and I think this is the more likely outcome, a team could draft him with the idea that he could develop into a versatile utility player. His only standout tool is his raw power, but even that is mitigated somewhat by a swing that currently lacks the proper loft needed to consistently drive balls up and out.

Elk Grove HS (CA) 3B JD Davis enters college as one of the most intriguing freshman two-way talents. I’m actually thrilled Davis is going to school because he is the epitome of a two-way college guy: just athletic enough to both pitch and play the field, but not quite athletic enough to handle much more than first base; plus arm and plus raw power with questions about command and ability to hit for average. Whoops, think I just previewed 2012 draft prospect Austin Maddox by accident.

Yet another two-way player likely heading off to college. Davis sports a well-rounded skill set, but no plus tool that will get a scout hot and bothered.

Cal State Fullerton RHP Jake Floethe is far more of a scouting pick than a numbers-approved selection. With the potential for three average or better big league pitches, Floethe is an intriguing gamble despite his less than thrilling college stats. His upside falls somewhere between fourth/fifth starter (if his changeup and slider continue to progress) or middle reliever (if it is decided he scrap an offspeed pitch and focus on sharper, shorter bursts). That’s upside, mind.

Cal State Fullerton JR RHP Jake Floethe (2011): 90-93 FB with plus sink; good CU; promising SL; room for growth

You often hear about a prep pitching star who peaked velocity-wise as a teenager – Kasey Kiker being the most recent example – but Gonzaga LHP Ryan Carpenter is the rare example of a college guy doing the same. Guys like this make the whole projection game really difficult. A pessimist might choose to focus on the fact that Carpenter may never recapture his college peak velocity (low-90s sitting fastball, 95 peak). An optimist could then point to his more refined (by necessity) offspeed stuff that complements his still acceptable upper-80s heater quite nicely. I’m not too proud to say I have no idea what his future holds – so much depends on his return to form as he recovers fully from arm troubles.

Gonzaga JR LHP Ryan Carpenter: at one time threw a heavy 92-94 FB, touching 95 with movement; now sits upper-80s, with rare peak of 92; above-average 81-82 SL, dominant at times; inconsistent but quickly improving 77-78 CU; low-70s CB that he uses very sparingly; 6-5, 225 pounds

Let’s squint our eyes together and look far off into Tampa’s future: Goeddel at third, Martin at short, Hager at second, and Glendora HS (CA) 1B John Alexander bringing the power at first? Everything working out just like that isn’t bloody likely, but the fact that we can even pretend it could happen is a testament to the wonderfully ecumenical (a rare SAT word that has stuck with me) approach Tampa took on draft day. For the millionth time, first basemen need to hit a ton to even be considered a viable prospect let alone a potential big leaguer. Alexander has an uphill road because of this, but his power upside, exciting athleticism, and mature beyond his years approach to hitting make him interesting to track. I wasn’t on him pre-draft, but that’s less of a commentary on Alexander’s upside than it is an indictment on my ability to follow everybody that deserves attention.

The Rays were wise to save a little cash by snagging a cheaper senior sign like Western Kentucky C Matt Rice within the draft’s first ten rounds. Rice is a good athlete, good defender, and by all accounts a good guy; it’s easy to see why Tampa would like a guy like this handling their bevy of up and coming arms.

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.

Gahr HS (CA) RHP Jacob Faria was a really good get as a tenth rounder with significant upside. There’s a large gap between what he is and what he will be, but his promising pro start (14 K/1 BB in 15.2 IP) certainly doesn’t hurt his cause.

That finally covers Tampa’s first ten rounds. Haven’t bothered to do a word count, but I’m willing to bet there is more here on just their top ten rounders than what I’ve written on some teams’ entire drafts. Crazy. Thankfully, the expenditure from the first ten rounds made the later rounds a little bit lighter than normal, but there are some interesting names worth noting.

Oklahoma 1B Cameron Seitzer (Round 11) has gotten more attention than your usual later draft selection because of his famous last name. Like Faria above, his pro start was pretty darn encouraging, so long as you ignore the whole age/development/league/sample size issues of a college guy tearing up rookie ball.

Power and bloodlines will help get Seitzer through the door, but it could be the development of his already much improved two-strike approach that makes or breaks him as a pro.

Shorewood HS (WA) 1B Trevor Mitsui (Round 12) goes to Washington to prove that his bat is strong enough to carry him as a professional first base prospect. St. James HS (SC) OF Tanner English (Round 13) takes his awesome speed, center field defense, and solid hit tool to South Carolina. English is the better prospect, but either guy would have been a fine signing for Tampa. Consider these losses the downside of having 33 (give or take) first round picks.

I’ve run out of nice things to say about Coastal Carolina SS Taylor Motter (Round 17). Nice original things, that is – I could say nice things about him all day, but I’m pretty sure at this point I’m just repeating myself. He’s a stat-head favorite who has just enough going for him in the raw tools department to get the unfortunate stat-head only stigma attached to his name. Here’s something nice I don’t think I’ve said about him before: you can win a championship with Taylor Motter as your starting shortstop. The flood of upcoming Tampa middle infield prospects could push him aside. I think he’s holding onto because, at worst, he looks like a valuable utility infielder to me.

I can’t even begin to guess where Motter will actually go on draft day, but I’m willing to stick my neck out and say that whatever team winds up with him will get one of the draft’s underrated gems. Like Brandon Loy ranked just below him, Motter’s biggest strengths are his plus glove and plus throwing arm. Any above-average tools besides those two are gravy, though it certainly doesn’t hurt that Motter has an average hit tool and good speed. A couple of really nice things I heard about Motter after talking to people in the know included a description that included ”he simply does not waste at bats” and a glowing report on “his professional knowledge of the strike zone.” Motter obviously doesn’t profile as a Troy Tulowitzki type of power hitter, but with his defense, speed, and command of the strike zone, he won’t have to hit the ball out of the ballpark to someday get a chance as a starting big league shortstop.

Tennessee RHP Matt Ramsey (Round 20) could be a fast riser if healthy. His fastball peaks in the mid- to upper-90s and his curve is a plus offering when on. The former catcher’s mechanics have improved significantly over the past calendar year, so there’s some hope that there’s even more velocity to be had. I’m not so sure about that – if he’s peaking 96-98 already, how much higher can he realistically go? – but I could see his current fluctuating velocity become more consistent.

Tennessee JR RHP Matt Ramsey: low-90s peak in HS, now up to 96 peak FB; low-80s CB that flashes plus; converted catcher who PG compared to Russell Martin in high school; 5-10, 200

I’m totally in the bag for Dexter HS (MA) RHP John Magliozzi (Round 35) because, as any long-time readers know, very few things excite me more than short righthanded pitchers. Magliozzi may be undersized, but his fastball (sits low-90s, peaks 94) is plenty tall. His changeup is a strong second pitch and he worked in both a slider and a curve at times while in high school. If he is draft-eligible as a freshman as Baseball America claims (and I have no reason to doubt them, just highlighting the pain in the neck that is determining draft eligibility at times), then we’ll likely be talking about him again in a few months.

RHP John Magliozzi (Dexter HS, Massachusetts): 90-92 FB, 93-94 peak; good 80-81 CU; SL; 5-10, 175

Kansas RHP Tanner Poppe (Round 37) heads back to Kansas hoping to rebound after a disappointingly lackluster sophomore season. Poppe has the size, stuff, and mechanics to get himself drafted in the single digit rounds in 2012, but it’ll take a drastic turn in performance this spring.

Kansas SO RHP Tanner Poppe (2011): 90-93 FB with late life; solid 74 CB; 80 CU; easy mechanics; extremely projectable; 6-5, 220 pounds; (4.82 K/9 – 4.82 BB/9 – 4.51 FIP – 61.2 IP)

UC Irvine 1B Jordan Leyland (Round 44) has big raw power, but that’s about it when it comes to average or better tools. Texas C Kevin Lusson (Round 45) also returns to school. At bats could be hard to come by in an improved Longhorns lineup. Despite having played third base and catcher in the past, his best bet for college at bats could be at first.

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.

2010 MLB Draft: Top 30 College Catching Prospects

30. Pittsburgh JR C Kevan Smith

The former Panthers quarterback is a plus athlete with a strong arm who is still understandably raw in some phases of the game. He was a highly regarded prospect coming out of high school who was at one point seen as a potential top five round pick, but was downgraded because of his strong commitment to the gridiron. There’s already some speculation that he’ll stick around for his senior year to further showcase his skills.

29. Louisville SR C Jeff Arnold

Arnold is good enough defensively to stick behind the plate, but his above-average speed could tempt a pro team into moving him off the position into a super-sub role. He’s always had a keen batting eye and a solid hit tool, but the lack of power should limit him to backup work going forward.

28. New Mexico JR C Rafael Neda

Neda’s strong statistical profile syncs up well with the increasingly positive scouting reports thrown his way this spring. He came into the year with a solid defensive reputation and above-average power to the gaps, but now has some scouts thinking he could grow into a decent regular with double digit homerun totals.

27. Texas Tech JR C Jeremy Mayo

Reminds me a lot of Jeff Arnold in that both players are above-average runners with solid gloves, but Mayo’s edge in power makes him the better prospect.

26. Ohio State JR C Dan Burkhart

Despite being a legitimate pro prospect in his own right, his biggest claim to fame may be convincing best friend and potential first rounder Alex Wimmers to join him for three years in Columbus. Burkhart is yet another good defensive catcher with a good batting eye and a questionable power ceiling. His scouting reports and his numbers come very close to Kevan Smith’s, but Burkhart’s higher probability of contributing gives him the edge over Smith’s higher upside. Burkhart also receives high marks for being one of the few catchers in the college game trusted to call his own pitches.

25. Rice SR C Diego Seastrunk

I haven’t seen or heard this comp elsewhere, so take it for what it’s worth (not much), but Seastrunk’s scouting profile and video remind me of a lesser version of Ryan Doumit. That’s high praise. Seastrunk is the kind of player who’s overall package exceeds the sum of his parts. Of course, it’s not exactly like his parts are all that shabby. I love, love, love the way Seastrunk has transitioned to the role of full-time catcher this spring. Seastrunk’s combination of an above-average arm, gap power, and plus makeup (he’s a tireless worker and a great team player) has me believing his tools will play as a professional. He isn’t a natural behind the plate, but the instincts I’ve seen from him in going down to get balls in the dirt lead me to believe he’ll be an above-average defender before long. I eventually can see Seastrunk filling a supersub role (not unlike Doumit before he broke out).

The majority of catchers at this point in the ranking fall into one of three categories: 1) high ceiling, low floor (could be a starting catcher with all the right breaks, but doesn’t have the customary skill set big league clubs like in backup catchers), 2) low ceiling, high floor(ready-made big league backup skill set, especially defensively, but without the offensive upside to start) , 3) supersub upside (capable of contributing at first, third, and/or the outfield corners). Seastrunk has a throwing arm that flashes plus (great raw strength, improving pop times), gap power (notice this commonality among the back half of the top 30?), and good patience at the plate. He also has experience at all of the supersub positions listed above. He may never be a big league starting catcher, nor may he be a primary backup, but his versatility should be a boon for whatever pro team takes the chance on him.

24. Oklahoma State JR C Kevin David

On paper, David is a top ten college catching prospect, but his results through three years at Oklahoma State have been more good than great. There’s not much to quibble with when it comes to his excellent athleticism, strong throwing arm, and above-average glove, but all of that untapped potential needs to turn into production before long. His relatively low placement on the list — it’s possible he goes somewhere between round 5-10 — is more about the players ahead of him than anything else; if that’s a cop-out, so be it.

23. Embry-Riddle SR C Austin Goolsby

Besides having a fun name to say, Austin Goolsby is an intriguing NAIA catching prospect with elite defensive potential, good pro size, and power to the gaps. His skills as an economist, however, are at this point unknown.

22. Southern Illinois SR C Tyler Bullock

Bullock possesses the best present power of any player in the bottom half of the top thirty, no real shock when you consider his classic big bopper (6-4, 275) build. He’s a lesser version of one of my 2009 favorites, Purdue’s Dan Black, another large man with prodigious power potential. Like Black, Bullock’s defense is passable and his arm strength is above-average. Like Black, Bullock’s professional future is that of a versatile backup catcher capable of filling in at first base (Bullock and Black) and/or third base (Black only).

21. Western Kentucky JR C Matt Rice

Average hit tool, slightly above-average power, solid defender = mid-round pick with big league backup upside.

20. Georgia Tech JR C Cole Leonida

As one of the spring’s fastest rising prospects, Cole Leonida does a lot of little things very well. His defense around the plate is a strength, and his power potential is second only to Tyler Bullock’s here on the latter half of the top thirty. Leonida’s impressive throwing arm, while at least big league average in strength and above-average in accuracy, could really stand to benefit from some mechanical adjustments to help with his release point. With good coaching that big league average arm could easily become consistently above-average. As a hitter he’ll probably never hit at or near .300 professionally, but his raw power could translate into double digit homeruns if given enough playing time.

19. Virginia JR C Kenny Swab

Here’s what was said here about Mr. Swab back before the season started:

He’s got a live bat with above-average power potential, but it’ll take some serious lineup juggling from Brian O’Connor to get him the at bats he’ll need to boost his draft stock. As is, Swab is a potential 10-20th round player based on upside alone.

Not a bad preseason prediction on a fairly unheralded junior college transfer, right? In the at bats Swab’s earned this year, he’s impressed. Good power, good patience, good defender, good arm, and good positional versatility. He’s not a star by any means, but he’s a good player. That sounds pretty good to me.

18. Missouri JR C Brett Nicholas

Similar to Swab in that both are junior college transfers with solid hit tools capable of playing a variety of positions, but Nicholas’ greater power potential and more intriguing secondary position (Nicholas is at least passable on the hot corner) gives him the advantage.

17. Arizona State JR C Xorge Carrillo

Carrillo’s placement this high is largely speculative, but, hey, isn’t that really what a list like this is all about? Carrillo has missed almost all of the season with a bum forearm, but when healthy showed off impressive power to all fields and much improved athleticism behind the plate. That last reason is why I’m comfortable keeping the twice drafted Carrillo this high on the list despite the injury. The improvements in his body and subsequent uptick in footwork behind the plate indicate a dedication to getting better that makes me think his injury is just a minor blip on his path towards getting drafted a third time.

16. Lewis-Clark State JR C Kawika Emsley-Pai

Emsley-Pai’s injury history, most notably a stress fracture of his L5 veterbra that occurred in high school, could keep some teams away, but as a switch-hitter with patience and really good defensive tools he should get plenty of looks this June. Recent back tightness is a bit of a red flag, but, again, if his medicals check out then the former Longhorn will finally get his chance in pro ball.

15. North Carolina State JR C Chris Schaeffer

Good defensively? Check. Above-average power production? Check. Mature approach at the plate? Check. There really aren’t a lot of obvious chinks in Schaeffer’s prospect armor, especially when stacked up against his draft-eligible college catching competition. Biggest knock on Schaeffer that I’ve heard revolves around his swing. His experience with wood in the past hasn’t inspired a great deal of confidence that his power is more than an aluminum bat mirage. Even if we adjust for a loss of power, Schaeffer’s other aforementioned skills make him an attractive mid-round candidate as a developmental backup catcher type.

14. North Carolina JR C Jesse Wierzbicki

Wierzbicki’s tools grade out as solid across the board, especially if you’re like me and willing to grade a catcher’s running speed on a curve. I tend to think of backup catchers falling into one of three general archetypes. The first group of backups are the sluggers (big raw power, capable of popping an extra base hit or two in that one start a week), the second are the defensive aces (nothing mesmerizes big league coaching staffs more than a catching with a plus arm), and the third are the players that do everything pretty well, but nothing great. Wierzbicki falls squarely in with that last category of player. He’s known for having power to the gaps, a consistent line drive generating swing, and a solid arm. He’s also a tireless worker who knows his own athletic limitations, two of those tricky intangible qualities that either mean a lot to a team or nothing at all.

13. Santa Clara SR C Tommy Medica

Medica was profiled last year:

Tommy Medica brings tons of experience with 92 starts behind plate in his first two years at Santa Clara. He offers up good size (6-1 215), gap power, a very fine throwing arm, above-average athleticism (he’s played a decent LF in the past), and a classic sounding baseball player name, but he hasn’t seen live action since leaving a game with what has been since diagnosed  as a separated shoulder on March 7th. That makes Medica a unique prospect to evaluate – what do we make of a solid mid-round catcher considered by many to have untapped potential with the bat (good!) who is on the mend rehabbing a pretty serious injury (bad!)?

He doesn’t necessarily have a standout tool (though his arm is darn good), but he also doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses. I think I remember coming to the conclusion that catchers who are billed as solid players unspectacular in any one area tend to disappoint, yet I still can’t help but like Medica’s game. I need to fight that like and go with what my hastily thrown together research told me – Medica fits the profile of a player who faces a long climb towards attaining the ultimate goal of making himself a useful big leaguer.

He’s healthy this year and producing at about the level expected of his tools. The outfield experiment hasn’t gone quite as well as it has in the past, but the positional versatility still helps his stock. Teams that were in on him last year before the injury should probably be after him in the mid-rounds once again in 2010.

12. TCU SR C Bryan Holaday

Off the charts leadership, plus raw strength, excellent gap power, elite defender, and a plus arm. That description immediately makes me think of the guy ranked number four on this list. Quick conclusion: Bryan Holaday is about 90% of the player Micah Gibbs is with only about 9% of the hype. Of course, their respective placement on the list makes me guilty of overlooking Holaday as well. He’s a relatively safe investment in the mid-rounds for a team in need of a high floor backup with the upside of a solid second division starting player.

11. Coastal Carolina SR C Jose Iglesias

Iglesias started 2009 with as much helium as any college catcher in the country. I remembered talking to a scout really early in the season about Iglesias. He told me that from a body/tools/projection standpoint, Iglesias was as good a bet as any college catcher in the country, Tony Sanchez included. His junior season (.306/.381/.570) was a letdown for many, but only because of the tremendous expectations placed on his head during the winter. His numbers in 2010 are better across the board, and his skills, especially his batting eye and power potential, remain strong. As much as any catcher on the list so far, Iglesias has what it takes to be a big league starter behind the plate.

10. Tennessee JR C Blake Forsythe

As one of my favorite players in the country heading in the year, Forsythe, no doubt already feeling the heat as a key bat on a top SEC school expected to compete in 2010, had the added pressure of keeping this faceless internet stranger happy with a big season at and behind the plate. He’s responded with a season reminiscent of Jose Iglesias’s 2009 – good, but certainly not top five round worthy like many had hoped. Like Iglesias, it may be in his best interest to return for a senior season to rehabilitate his slipping draft stock. As it stands, his stock isn’t completely down the tubes; legit power potential and super plate discipline will get a guy chances, down year or not. I also think he’s a better athlete and runner than he often gets credit for, but those skills aren’t going to be what gets him paid. If he hits like expected, he’s a big leaguer.

9. Vanderbilt JR C Curt Casali

Casali has an almost perfect big league body, incredible athleticism for a catcher, and great physical strength. That’s all well and good (and I don’t say that derisively, it really is both well and good), but can he play baseball? Well, he’s an above-average defender who has caught a wide array of pitchers while at Vanderbilt, and his throwing arm has made a slow, but steady recovery from Tommy John surgery. His bat has some serious juice (near-plus power may be the tool that comes most naturally to him) and his patient approach makes him a legit candidate to play every day professionally.

8. Texas JR C Cameron Rupp

Now we’re finally getting to some college catching prospects with legit plus tools. In Rupp’s case, it’s plus raw power and a plus throwing arm. The raw power is hard to argue with, though there is some concern it’s more of a pure physical strength power rather than quick wrists and a classic swing kind of power. Rupp’s arm strength has been called above-average in some places, but, for me, his arm becomes a plus tool when you combine that above-average throwing power with his incredibly precise throwing accuracy. Arm and power, check. As for the other three tools, well, that’s more of a mixed bag. His running speed is well below-average and his long swing has enough holes against breaking pitches to keep him from ever having anything more than a league average bat. His defense, however, gives him a third above-average tool, especially his surprisingly nimble lateral movement behind the plate.

7. UNC Wilmington JR C Cody Stanley

Stanley gets the edge over Rupp due to better athleticism, but, really, the two are similar prospects in many respects. Both have plus power potential, both have plus throwing arms (Stanley’s isn’t as strong, but better footwork and a quicker release helps narrow the gap), and both profile as solid big league defenders behind the plate. Pretty similar, right? So what exactly gives Stanley the advantage as a prospect? Well, we’ve already covered Stanley’s superior athleticism, but the UNC Wilmington catcher also bests his Texas counterpart in baserunning (Stanley has great instincts and is an average runner for a catcher) and track record with a wood bat (Stanley killed it on the Cape this past summer). Stanley over Rupp by a hair; the proof is in the parentheses.

6. UC Riverside SO C Rob Brantly

Originally my favorite four-year college in the 2010 class, Brantly’s sophomore season hasn’t really done too much to hurt his stock, but has nonetheless seen his spot in the rankings slip as other college guys have simply done more. The one and only time (maye) I’ll lift something directly from the always wonderful Baseball America comes now:

[Redacted] has a strong, compact swing and the ability to make consistent, hard contact to all fields. He has a mature, patient offensive approach, excellent pitch recognition and advanced strike-zone awareness. He has above-average power to the pull side and also good power the other way.

That could very easily be written about Rob Brantly, but it was actually the most recent scouting report on Washington’s Derek Norris. The comparison isn’t perfect, but I think it works as a general outline – big bat, professional strike-zone awareness, solid defensive tools, but not yet a reliable backstop. Norris was a fourth round steal out of high school in 2007; Brantly could be the college equivalent, in round and value, here in 2010.

5. Villanova SO C Matt Szczur

I can’t really defend the last two biases on the list, but the first three are things that I know I’m not alone in looking out for. Szczur’s scouting credentials include the following: really impressive hit tool, good speed (not just good for a catcher, either), plus arm, plus athleticism, rapidly emerging power, championship pedigree, worthwhile positional versatility (3B and corner OF collegiate experience, above-average at all three spots), and, as a long-time two-sport star conditioned to split his training two ways since junior high, vast untapped potential on the diamond. I won’t profess to know Szczur’s ultimate upside as a ballplayer, but I have a hard time watching him play and seeing anything but a young man on the cusp of a long big league career. These rankings have been more or less surprise free to this point, but Szczur’s high placement is something I’m willing to roll the dice on.

4. Louisiana State JR C Micah Gibbs

Previously on Micah Gibbs

JR C Micah Gibbs (2010) is currently a potential late first round pick who, even with a subpar junior season, still ought to hear his name called in the first three rounds of the 2010 Draft. Offensively he is more solid than spectacular, though his plate discipline (career 69/76 BB/K ratio) is a skill worth getting somewhat excited about. Scouts have long pegged him as a player with big raw power, especially from the left side, but in two years at LSU he hasn’t been able to show off that batting practice thunder in game situations. Gibbs’ leadership is praised far and wide and his defense is beyond reproach, so expect Gibbs to get a ton of ink as one the chosen players MLB decides to “talk up” with positive press heading into the June draft.

Next week on Micah Gibbs

Unfunny joke aside, not much has really changed from Gibbs’ preseason outlook to now. Only the emergence of his in-game power qualifies, and even that’s a stretch when you consider said emergence was predicted by many heading into the year. Gibbs’ defensive skills make him a solid bet to reach the big leagues in some capacity. His power/speed combination makes him a pretty good bet to reach the big leagues ready to start and put up league average or better numbers for the position. In other words, Gibbs is a relatively safe player with a high floor worth betting on having some semblance of a successful big league career.

3. Minnesota JR C Mike Kvasnicka

I try my best to balance reading as much as possible about the draft as I can while also not allowing any one publication’s rankings influence my own. Kvasnicka at third overall on the list of top college catchers seemed so clever before checking one of the big boys’ lists (ESPN, I think) and seeing Kvasnicka up at the top as well. Oh well, clever doesn’t really suit me all that well anyway. Kvasnicka’s spot near the top is incredibly well deserved. Here’s what was said about him in the preseason:

JR OF/C Mike Kvasnicka (2010) possesses one of the longest swings of any major prospect in the 2010 draft. This is a good thing when he makes contact (I’ve heard both the thwack! of the bat in the Northwoods League and the ping! at Minnesota, both very impressive), but a very bad thing when up against pitchers with effective offspeed stuff. Kvasnicka has struck out 103 times in 438 college at bats. Any regular reader knows that I’m firmly entrenched in the strikeouts are no worse than any other kind of out camp, but that only really applies to big leaguers. There is something to be said for high-K rates being an indicator of poor contact abilities for minor leaguers and amateurs.  If I was told I’d be drafting the current iteration of Kvasnicka, then I’m not sure I’d be too happy selecting a hitter who I won’t think will make enough contact to be a regular. Luckily, nobody is drafting the February version of any potential draft pick. Any team drafting Kvasnicka isn’t getting the Kvasnicka of February, 2010; they’ll get the player he will be someday down the line. Given the fact that Kvasnicka is a plus athlete with a well-rounded toolset (good speed, decent arm, plus raw power), there should be plenty of teams interested to see if he can figure it all out professionally, long swing and strikeouts be damned. His draft stock (already pretty solid – round 4-7 is my current guess) gets a bump if teams buy into his defensive abilities behind the plate.

To recap: February Kvasnicka, the free swinging outfielder with the long swing, was an intriguing draft prospect, but May Kvasnicka, the catcher with the revamped swing and more mature approach, is a potential big league star. Again, all the positives from the preseason remain; his speed, arm, and power will all work at the big league level. That’s the good news. The better news is the way Kvasnicka has worked to improve across the board this spring. The swing itself is so much better than the last time I saw it. Equally important, however, is the process that went into correcting his long, loopy swing in the first place. The realization of the existence of a correctable problem, implementation of a plan to fix said problem, and successful execution through hard work and practice is exactly what teams are looking for. Remember, most amateur players that are drafted high aren’t prospects that came out of nowhere; these guys have been on the radar for years. Teams spend a lot of time, money, and energy trying to figure out which players in the draft pool have what it takes to successfully adjust their game over time. Kvasnicka’s phenomenal transformation from intriguing draft prospect to potential big league star ought to give big league scouting staffs all over the country confidence that he is one of those players capable of constantly working to improve his game.

2. Miami JR C Yasmani Grandal

From my notes on Grandal: “big lefty power, but with from right side.” If anybody can explain what the heck I was trying to say there, I’d love to know. The part that’s easy to decipher is the “big lefty power” part; the data from College Splits via Jonathan Mayo backs that scouting idea up with empirical evidence: “The left-handed hitting backstop has feasted off of righties to the tune of .485/.592/.897. Southpaws have been a little more challenging: .328/.488/.508.” Can you use a semicolon and a colon in the same sentence? Darned if I know, but I just did. You know who might know? Yasmani Grandal. Why? Well, the guy is on such a roll in 2010 that there’s no reason to put anything past him at this point. Plus lefty power, hit tool with league average potential, above-average throwing arm, and defense that won’t hurt you (the accomplished salsa dancer has shown off some really fancy footwork behind the dish this year) combine to give you a prospect with four potential big league average minimum tools. Sure, there are some things that need to be cleaned up (swing can get long, inconsistent release point on throws to second, etc.) once he gets going in pro ball, but Grandal very clearly has what it takes to be an above-average big league starting catcher from a tools/production standpoint.

1. Community College of Southern Nevada FR C Bryce Harper

.417/.509/.917. With wood. At 17 years old. Even BB/K ratio. 42 extra base hits. No discernable platoon split. I’m only now starting to come around to the idea that moving him off of catcher may give him the best chance to unlock all of the professional potential he has with the bat, but, man, I really do love his defensive tools behind the plate. That’s honestly my biggest question with him right now – will he wind up a great hitting catcher or a really great hitting right fielder? With that as the biggest question about his future, there’s no wonder he’s atop this particular list. Bryce Harper is good.

2010 MLB Draft: Top 30 College Catching Prospects (30-16)

30. Pittsburgh JR C Kevan Smith

The former Panthers quarterback is a plus athlete with a strong arm who is still understandably raw in some phases of the game. He was a highly regarded prospect coming out of high school who was at one point seen as a potential top five round pick, but was downgraded because of his strong commitment to the gridiron. There’s already some speculation that he’ll stick around for his senior year to further showcase his skills.

29. Louisville SR C Jeff Arnold

Arnold is good enough defensively to stick behind the plate, but his above-average speed could tempt a pro team into moving him off the position into a super-sub role. He’s always had a keen batting eye and a solid hit tool, but the lack of power should limit him to backup work going forward.

28. New Mexico JR C Rafael Neda

Neda’s strong statistical profile syncs up well with the increasingly positive scouting reports thrown his way this spring. He came into the year with a solid defensive reputation and above-average power to the gaps, but now has some scouts thinking he could grow into a decent regular with double digit homerun totals.

27. Texas Tech JR C Jeremy Mayo

Reminds me a lot of Jeff Arnold in that both players are above-average runners with solid gloves, but Mayo’s edge in power makes him the better prospect.

26. Ohio State JR C Dan Burkhart

Despite being a legitimate pro prospect in his own right, his biggest claim to fame may be convincing best friend and potential first rounder Alex Wimmers to join him for three years in Columbus. Burkhart is yet another good defensive catcher with a good batting eye and a questionable power ceiling. His scouting reports and his numbers come very close to Kevan Smith’s, but Burkhart’s higher probability of contributing gives him the edge over Smith’s higher upside. Burkhart also receives high marks for being one of the few catchers in the college game trusted to call his own pitches.

25. Rice SR C Diego Seastrunk

I haven’t seen or heard this comp elsewhere, so take it for what it’s worth (not much), but Seastrunk’s scouting profile and video remind me of a lesser version of Ryan Doumit. That’s high praise. Seastrunk is the kind of player who’s overall package exceeds the sum of his parts. Of course, it’s not exactly like his parts are all that shabby. I love, love, love the way Seastrunk has transitioned to the role of full-time catcher this spring. Seastrunk’s combination of an above-average arm, gap power, and plus makeup (he’s a tireless worker and a great team player) has me believing his tools will play as a professional. He isn’t a natural behind the plate, but the instincts I’ve seen from him in going down to get balls in the dirt lead me to believe he’ll be an above-average defender before long. I eventually can see Seastrunk filling a supersub role (not unlike Doumit before he broke out).

The majority of catchers at this point in the ranking fall into one of three categories: 1) high ceiling, low floor (could be a starting catcher with all the right breaks, but doesn’t have the customary skill set big league clubs like in backup catchers), 2) low ceiling, high floor(ready-made big league backup skill set, especially defensively, but without the offensive upside to start) , 3) supersub upside (capable of contributing at first, third, and/or the outfield corners). Seastrunk has a throwing arm that flashes plus (great raw strength, improving pop times), gap power (notice this commonality among the back half of the top 30?), and good patience at the plate. He also has experience at all of the supersub positions listed above. He may never be a big league starting catcher, nor may he be a primary backup, but his versatility should be a boon for whatever pro team takes the chance on him.

24. Oklahoma State JR C Kevin David

On paper, David is a top ten college catching prospect, but his results through three years at Oklahoma State have been more good than great. There’s not much to quibble with when it comes to his excellent athleticism, strong throwing arm, and above-average glove, but all of that untapped potential needs to turn into production before long. His relatively low placement on the list — it’s possible he goes somewhere between round 5-10 — is more about the players ahead of him than anything else; if that’s a cop-out, so be it.

23. Embry-Riddle SR C Austin Goolsby

Besides having a fun name to say, Austin Goolsby is an intriguing NAIA catching prospect with elite defensive potential, good pro size, and power to the gaps. His skills as an economist, however, are at this point unknown.

22. Southern Illinois SR C Tyler Bullock

Bullock possesses the best present power of any player in the bottom half of the top thirty, no real shock when you consider his classic big bopper (6-4, 275) build. He’s a lesser version of one of my 2009 favorites, Purdue’s Dan Black, another large man with prodigious power potential. Like Black, Bullock’s defense is passable and his arm strength is above-average. Like Black, Bullock’s professional future is that of a versatile backup catcher capable of filling in at first base (Bullock and Black) and/or third base (Black only).

21. Western Kentucky JR C Matt Rice

Average hit tool, slightly above-average power, solid defender = mid-round pick with big league backup upside.

20. Georgia Tech JR C Cole Leonida

As one of the spring’s fastest rising prospects, Cole Leonida does a lot of little things very well. His defense around the plate is a strength, and his power potential is second only to Tyler Bullock’s here on the latter half of the top thirty. Leonida’s impressive throwing arm, while at least big league average in strength and above-average in accuracy, could really stand to benefit from some mechanical adjustments to help with his release point. With good coaching that big league average arm could easily become consistently above-average. As a hitter he’ll probably never hit at or near .300 professionally, but his raw power could translate into double digit homeruns if given enough playing time.

19. Virginia JR C Kenny Swab

Here’s what was said here about Mr. Swab back before the season started:

He’s got a live bat with above-average power potential, but it’ll take some serious lineup juggling from Brian O’Connor to get him the at bats he’ll need to boost his draft stock. As is, Swab is a potential 10-20th round player based on upside alone.

Not a bad preseason prediction on a fairly unheralded junior college transfer, right? In the at bats Swab’s earned this year, he’s impressed. Good power, good patience, good defender, good arm, and good positional versatility. He’s not a star by any means, but he’s a good player. That sounds pretty good to me.

18. Missouri JR C Brett Nicholas

Similar to Swab in that both are junior college transfers with solid hit tools capable of playing a variety of positions, but Nicholas’ greater power potential and more intriguing secondary position (Nicholas is at least passable on the hot corner) gives him the advantage.

17. Arizona State JR C Xorge Carrillo

Carrillo’s placement this high is largely speculative, but, hey, isn’t that really what a list like this is all about? Carrillo has missed almost all of the season with a bum forearm, but when healthy showed off impressive power to all fields and much improved athleticism behind the plate. That last reason is why I’m comfortable keeping the twice drafted Carrillo this high on the list despite the injury. The improvements in his body and subsequent uptick in footwork behind the plate indicate a dedication to getting better that makes me think his injury is just a minor blip on his path towards getting drafted a third time.

16. Lewis-Clark State JR C Kawika Emsley-Pai

Emsley-Pai’s injury history, most notably a stress fracture of his L5 veterbra that occurred in high school, could keep some teams away, but as a switch-hitter with patience and really good defensive tools he should get plenty of looks this June. Recent back tightness is a bit of a red flag, but, again, if his medicals check out then the former Longhorn will finally get his chance in pro ball.

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