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A Quick Word on Three College Catchers

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

Photo Source: Ben's

Photo Source: Ben's

Tommy Medica

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.

As far as the 2009 Draft goes, I think it’s likely Medica will be poached by a team flush with cash with a late round pick (probably no sooner than the tenth…maybe the Red Sox?) willing to take the chance paying an overslot bonus for a player who should be healthy enough to run through a battery of tests prior to the August 15 signing deadline. If he is good to go physically and willing to take that big fat overslot check, he’ll be a steal. If the fit isn’t right for Medica (whether it’s team, money, or health related), he’ll head back to school to up his 2010 stock as a redshirt junior/academic senior. I’d bet one of those hypothetical big fat overslot checks that Medica returns to Santa Clara next season.

Justin Dalles

I like that he is a three-time draftee (26th round in 2008, 40th round in 2007, 15th round in 2006)

I like that he was a top fifty prospect out of the talent heavy state of Florida coming out of St. Petersburg JC last season

I like his big league frame, all 6-2 205 of it

I like the power – His raw power may rate a touch under plus, but his in-game power plays up and is easily above-average.

I like the arm – The upper-80s heat works well from behind the plate, plus Dalles is very accurate with his tosses.

I like the approach – Dalles gets big bonus points for being able to go the opposite way with power on a regular basis

I love the mental makeup – I do try to ignore the impossibly vague word “makeup” when I can, but sometimes so many positive things are said about a prospect’s work ethic, ability to preserver through adverse conditions, and general disposition that “makeup,” no matter how you want to define it, can’t be ignored. Any player, coach, or scout that has come into contact with Dalles has nothing but fabulous things to say about his makeup. Plus makeup isn’t a reason to draft a player in the first round, but it is a good tiebreaker when deciding on two similarly talented players; there is something to be said for those “intangibles” that can occasionally pop up and push one player past another equally talented guy when all extrinsic factors are alike.

I don’t like his questionable receiving skills, though they have reportedly improved under the guidance of the very good Gamecocks coaching staff

I don’t like the concussion he suffered in early April – I can’t imagine a head injury is all that fun, but it’s even worse from a prospect standpoint when the injury occurs to a catcher, what with all the pitch calling, game planning, and regular attacks to the cranium by errant balls, bats flying by on the follow through, and baserunners charging down the line Adam Dunn vs Mike Lieberthal style.

I don’t like the good, but not great results at the plate thus far this spring for South Carolina (power numbers are great, but his contact rate is too low — wish I knew what his BABIP was — and plate discipline has been disappointing)

For a while I was convinced that Dalles was a top ten round lock, but now I’m not so sure. Despite the fact I’ve written a short novel on the subject over the past few weeks, college catchers really aren’t that highly sought after most draft days. This year I’d expect you’d see even fewer college catchers picked because a) it’s generally considered to be a lackluster crop, and b) 2009 is the year of the prep catcher. I obviously can’t dispute the latter point, but I take exception to the former. There are some quality below the radar mid-round catching prospects that profile better than mere organizational depth; Dalles is exactly the kind of sneaky high upside, low risk that warrants taking a chance on once the top prep players on your wishlist are all long gone.

Travis Tartamella

Tartamella is a gamn good athlete, so good in fact that he is a legitimately good runner and not just fast for a catcher. He spent two truly awful years at Pepperdine, but can currently be found raking at Cal State LA, one of Southern California’s top Division II schools. Tartamella gets the slight edge over current Barry JC catcher/first baseman and former Tennessee Volunteer Yan Gomes as top Division II catching prospect due to his improved defense at the position. All in all, Tartamella (another name I can’t help myself from repeating over and over again) falls under the weird player archetype umbrella of “unusually raw, but enticing college player.” Spots on this team typically go to pitchers in Northeastern or Midwestern schools, ultra-toolsy outfielders still trying to put it all together, and junior college players with one or two off the charts tools that seemingly can’t chew tobacco and run at the same time (unless, of course, that one great tool happens to be speed…).

Tartamella is the rare cat who has already used up a few lives before his pro career has gotten off the ground, but has apparently found a way to reinvent himself along the way. From solid, well-rounded top high school prospect to complete collegiate flameout at Pepperdine, to finally achieving success slugging his D-II team to victories left and right at Cal State LA, Tartamella has found a way to survive through it all. He may fall a little too neatly in the unfortunate side of the “well-rounded catchers drool, inconsistent but plus tools guys rule” mantra I’ve come up with, but Tartamella has enough fans from his high school days that he should expect to hear his name called between rounds 10 and 20.


Give me Dalles, Medica, and Tartamella in that order. Where they all fit in my overall top rankings of college catching prospects, you’ll have to wait and see…


1 Comment

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