On last fall’s initial list of 2015 HS catching prospects of note, first prep catcher off the board and eventual first round pick Tyler Stephenson was not mentioned. Keep that in mind as you read my first published take of the 2016 HS catching class. Whether that means that I don’t know what I’m talking about, teenage catching prospects are unusually difficult to project, or something in between is entirely up to you. After whiffing on Stephenson last September, know that my feelings won’t be hurt if you quit reading now. Better yet, I’d advise using the list below as something closer to a directory of names to know and learn more about than a ranking of great consequence.
Before we get to the 2016 class, a few general thoughts from last year’s research about what we should expect from any given year’s HS catching class using recent history as a guide…
All of the caveats from above (historical trends aren’t more important than individual prospects being the most relevant and most important here) apply, but taking into everything else into account we can guess that the following will wind up as true in 2015…
1) The first high school catching prospect should expect to be off the board around the mid-20s in the first round.
2) There will be other quality catching prospects (perhaps up to five) off the board through round four, but not so much after that point.
3) Only two of said prospects should be expected to have meaningful MLB careers as catchers.
So, how did we do with those predictions? Not great, Bob!
1) Stephenson went to Cincinnati with the 11th overall pick, so I don’t think we can count this as a successful prediction.
2) Only three HS catchers were selected in the top two rounds (Stephenson, Chris Betts, and Lucas Herbert). If we expand our range a bit, we can add a fourth with Justin Cohen going in the sixth round. Four guys through six rounds isn’t exactly “up to five” guys through four rounds, but it isn’t too far off either
3) We’ll see! The fact that the class had a pretty clear gap between Stephenson/Betts and the field lends some credence to this idea, though I think it’s almost as likely that one of those two plus a catcher we’re not hyping up much at the moment wind up as those two catchers with “meaningful MLB careers.”
My very lazy research only shows that Stephenson, Betts, Herbert, Cohen, Kerby Camacho, Dalton Blumenfeld, Cody Brickhouse, Joenny Vazquez, Jorge Martinez, and Andrew Noviello signed this past draft. That’s just ten HS catchers added to the minor league pool this year out of the thirty-one drafted. Unsigned guys like Joe Davis, Elih Marrero, Wyatt Cross, Garrett Wolforth, Nick Dalesandro, Michael Benson, Michael Hickman, and Domenic DeRenzo (to name just a few) all figure to make their mark in the pros after first doing some damage in college ball. Benson and Hickman are in junior college ball and will get a shot in the draft next year while the other top names (to my knowledge) are all at four-year schools and eligible to be re-drafted in 2018.
Anyway, as written at the top a lot can change between now and June – again last year’s early HS catching post compared to the May update certainly shows – but Herbert Iser is the best current two-way prep catcher in this class. His power is as good if not better than any of his peers, he’s greatly improved his approach as hitter over the last calendar year, and his defense remains a clear strength. In many ways his prospect profile reads like Chris Betts’ from a year ago.
On the same top tier as Iser are Bradley Debo, Cooper Johnson, Ben Rortvedt, and Michael Amditis. I don’t think having any of those five as your top guy is wrong; in fact, I think that logic can even be extended past that to include names like Andy Yerzy, Sam Ferri, Thomas Dillard, and Max Guzman. That’s outstanding depth at the top of this class, all before we get to personal favorites like Blake Sabol, Zack Smith, Andrew Miller, and Jacob Matheny.
I mention an Iser/Betts connection, but smarter minds than I (namely the guys at Perfect Game) have used Betts as a comp for Debo. I think physically that makes more sense, so I won’t quibble. Debo stands out for his bat above all else, but he’s another solid all-around two-way player who is a catcher all the way. That’s a clear point of strength in this class: these high school catchers will actually catch at the pro level. The wildly athletic, rocket-armed Johnson takes that point to the extreme. My immediate though when watching him was Austin Hedges, but others mentioned Russell Martin and Francisco Cervelli as names to consider. I like it as a spectrum ranging from high (Martin), medium (Cervelli), and low (Hedges) potential outcomes, but your mileage might vary. Having Rortvedt fourth might look really foolish by June; heck, it might look silly to many here in December. He’s right there with Iser when it comes to blending the offensive and defensive sides of the game into one potential long-time above-average big league starter package.
Let’s get this out of the way up front: no potential top five round prospect is ever truly under the radar despite the insistence of the paid experts. I won’t insult anybody’s intelligence and call anybody who falls within the top dozen or so prospects within a position group a “sleeper.” Still, there are guys lower down the list who are intriguing in their own way.
Despite a strong showing at the Under Armour All-America Game, Andrew Yerzy might be a little bit underscouted this spring relative to his peers. Lovely as it may be in the springtime, not too many scouts typically beat a path to York Mills Collegiate Institute in Ontario. He’s more advanced as a hitter than one might assume given his background and a big personal favorite. Forget limiting the pool to just catchers, Sam Ferri and Zack Smith rank among the best athletes in the entire class. That’s a big statement made bigger by the amount of weight many (myself included) place on athleticism at the catcher spot.
C Herbert Iser (Killian HS, Florida)
C Bradley Debo (Orange HS, North Carolina)
C Cooper Johnson (Carmel Catholic HS, Illinois)
C Ben Rortvedt (Verona Area HS, Wisconsin)
C Michael Amditis (Boca Raton Community HS, Florida)
C Andy Yerzy (York Mills Collegiate Institute, Ontario)
C/RHP Sam Ferri (Notre Dame Prep, Illinois)
C Thomas Dillard (Briarcrest Christian HS, Mississippi)
C/3B Max Guzman (St. Brendan HS, Florida)
C/OF Blake Sabol (Aliso Niguel HS, California)
C Jake Sullivan (Durant HS, Florida)
C Kyle McCann (Lambert HS, Georgia)
C Korey Lee (Vista HS, California)
C Mario Feliciano (Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy, Puerto Rico)
C Brandon Martorano (Christian Brothers Academy, New Jersey)
C/RHP Zack Smith (Eastern Wayne HS, North Carolina)
C/3B Pedro Pages (Gulliver Schools, Florida)
C Andrew Miller (Frisco HS, Texas)
C Jared Herron (Trinity Prep HS, Florida)
C Nicholas Kahle (Chaminade Prep, California)
C Tyson Zanski (Grand Junction HS, Colorado)
C Jacob Matheny (Westminster Christian Academy, Missouri)
C/1B Thomas Johns (Clay-Chalkville HS, Alabama)
C Tyler Haselman (Liberty HS, Washington)
C Keelyn Johnson (Pineville HS, Louisiana)
C Dalton Hill (Dunbar HS, Kentucky)
C Andy Thomas (Murrieta Mesa HS, California)
C Anthony Mulrine (St Thomas Aquinas HS, Florida)
C Marshall Skinner (Cypress Ranch HS, Texas)
C Jacob Kalusniak (Francis Howell North HS, Missouri)
C Santino Miozzi (Lake Nona HS, Florida)
C Mike Kilner (Padua Franciscan HS, Ohio)
C Zachary Humphreys (Midlothian HS, Texas)
C/OF Marc Coffers (Barron Collier HS, Florida)
C Christian Leonard (St. Thomas More HS, Louisiana)
C Beau Orlando (Cy-Fair HS, Texas)
C Tyler Duvall (Lebanon HS, Ohio)
C/OF Ryan Orr (La Costa Canyon HS, California)
C/3B Drake Frix (Darlington HS, Georgia)
C Brian Wicker (Ponca City HS, Oklahoma)
C Logan Foster (Lincoln Southwest HS, Nebraska)
C/3B Sam Huff (Arcadia HS, Arizona)
C Jaxx Groshans (Magnolia HS, Texas)
C Luke Berryhill (River Ridge HS, California)
C Cole Jackson (Sandy Creek HS, Georgia)
C Austin Biggar (Parkview HS, Georgia)
C Maverick Handley (Mullen HS, Colorado)
C/RHP Peyton Henry (Pleasant Grove HS, Utah)
C Alan Marrero (International Baseball Academy, Puerto Rico)
C Tyler Gordon (Simeon Career Academy, Illinois)
C Paul Gozzo (Sheehan HS, Connecticut)
C/2B Rankin Woley (The Westminster Schools, Georgia)