C: Reese McGuire (1)
There really is no such thing as a “lock” this early in the process, but fortune favors the bold — we might be disqualified from bold due to our wimpy use of quotes around lock — so we’ll go ahead and pretend we can see the future anyway. McGuire is the kind of high school catching prospect so far ahead of his peers that he makes me want to compare him against top guys from previous years. Stay tuned for that. In the meantime, ponder how high you’d be willing to take a chance on a plus-plus defender with ridiculous athleticism, a pretty swing, and the chance for double-digit home run power.
Too Wide Open to Guess
In no order, any one of the following could break through as the clear cut second prep catcher off the board: Jeremy Martinez, Chris Okey, Nick Ciuffo, Jonathan Denney, and Brian Navaretto. I’ve gone back and forth on the second spot all spring, but, forced to choose on this early date, I’d have Denney and Navaretto just ahead of the pack. I’m only comfortable declaring McGuire is a sure-fire first round pick at this point because of the way pro teams view high school catchers early on in the draft.
This catching class has the potential to be special, but some draft day perspective is key: the last first round with more than two high school catchers selected was 1994 (Paul Konerko, Ramon Castro, and Mark Johnson). I typically don’t care for making projections like this — every draft pool has talent dispersed differently and judging things based solely off historical trends ends up in insisting the Pirates would never take a signablity risk like Jameson Taillon — but I do think there’s something to be said for teams being cautious with projecting young catching early on in the draft. Of all the positions that get hyped up pre-draft by fools like me, catcher is the one spot you consistently fail to see the hype match the selection spot.
Look to 2009, the draft year that many (myself included) will likely be comparing to this 2013 group of catchers before long: Steven Baron went with pick 33 (first prep backstop off the board), Tommy Joseph pick 55, Cameron Garfield pick 74, JR Murphy pick 76, Wil Myers pick 91 (though signability had some to do with it), Max Stassi pick 123, Luke Bailey pick 139 (injury can explain this fall in part), Michael Ohlman pick 326, Andrew Susac pick 497, Gene Escalante pick 856, Mike Zunino pick 873, and Austin Maddox pick 1129. Some of those guys were getting legitimate early round buzz (Stassi, Ohlman, and Maddox stand out) at various points along the process. Draft day has a way of doing weird things to how teams value prep catching. McGuire and one or two others (TBD) will likely constitute this year’s high school catching first round contingent.
As far as the college side goes, well, the less written the better. The names below aren’t necessarily the best of the best at this time, but instead a few names that I think could rise (or, in some cases, continue to rise) up draft boards this spring. Tyler Ross and Andrew Knapp were the first two on my internal big board from a few months ago, but I have a lot more homework to do to have a fuller idea on the entirety of the college catching class. A quick run through revealed a whole lot of players who profile as defense-first backups (Texas JR Jacob Felt fits the bill here) without a great deal of upside at the plate.
In fact, a really strong argument can be made that there are anywhere from a half-dozen (the six names mentioned on this page are a good start) to a baker’s dozen better high school catching prospects better than even the top college backstop. I’m not yet prepared to make that argument — again, I have some homework to do before I can make fun declarative statements that will look insane by June — but it is one that may come up again in this space over the next few months. In no order, here a few of the college names (again, in no particular order and not necessarily a projection of the six best prospects come June) that have caught my eye early on in the process. Worth pointing out that I don’t think any of the players below have a realistic shot to even approach the first round.
- Matt Roberts (North Carolina)
- Tyler Ross (Louisiana State)
- Blake Austin (Auburn)
- Andrew Knapp (California)
- Austin Wynns (Fresno State)
- Matt Sinclair (Angelina JC)