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.