Draft Scouting Reports: Catchers
This year's class is extremely deep, if not top-heavy
The group lacks a true star at the top, but the depth of this year's prep catcher crop is incredible. High school backstops can be risky picks historically, so the thin college ranks will be picked clean quickly.
1. Tony Sanchez, Boston College, B-T: R-R
Sanchez, who grew up playing with Miami shortstop Ryan Jackson in South Florida, dreamed of playing for the Hurricanes when he was younger, but he was overweight and overlooked by many recruiters out of high school. He's slimmed down by 35 pounds in three years at Boston College and made himself into one of the nation's premier college catchers. Sanchez is a slightly above-average major league defender with soft hands, quick feet and a solid-average to plus arm. He excels at framing pitches and blocking balls in the dirt. Offensively, Sanchez has solid-average power, but his bat is not a sure thing. He punishes fastballs but struggles mightily against breaking balls, though he's an intelligent enough hitter to lay off breaking stuff that he cannot hit. He has a mature approach at the plate and excellent makeup on the field and off.
2. Max Stassi, Yuba City (Calif.) HS, B-T: R-R
Stassi carries on the family's baseball tradition, and he has a chance to be the best offensive catcher in this year's deep catching crop. He is related to Myril Hoag, an outfielder who played during the 1930s and '40s for the Yankees and St. Louis Browns and was an All-Star in 1939, and Stassi's father is his high school coach. Stassi got off to a sizzling start this spring, hitting .593 with nine homers in his first 21 games. For a high schooler, he's an exceptionally advanced hitter. He attacks the ball, uses the entire field and has above-average bat speed. Defensively, Stassi is solid but not outstanding. Other catchers are superior in catch-and-throw skills, but scouts agree that Stassi should have no difficulty remaining behind the plate. A bothersome shoulder injury restricted him to DH duty for about a month, but he has since returned to catching full time.
3. Wil Myers, Wesleyan Christian Academy, High Point, N.C., B-T: R-R
Myers emerged last summer and fall as one of the more intriguing bats in the class, and he earned first-round buzz as the year progressed despite poor private-school competition in North Carolina. Most clubs were judging him based on his strong showcase performance, where he showed the athleticism and feel for hitting to project as an average or above-average big league bat. Scouts consider him one of the draft's safer hitters, with a smooth swing he repeats and quick, strong hands. He has the bat speed and leverage to produce future power. A South Carolina recruit, Myers plays all over the field for his high school team—showing upper 80s velocity as a pitcher—but scouts want to try him behind the plate, where he's shown solid catch-and-throw tools. He has yet to handle premium stuff on a consistent basis, so there's no guarantee he'll remain a catcher. An average runner, he has even drawn Dale Murphy as a comparison, right down to a move to right or even center field if catching doesn't work out. Myers doesn't figure to last past the supplemental round.
4. Tommy Joseph, Horizon HS, Scottsdale, Ariz., B-T: R-R
Hailing from the same Horizon High program that has produced Giants righthander Tim Alderson and Angels shortstop Brandon Wood, Joseph likely won't be a first-rounder like those two. But he shouldn't lag far behind. Having split time between catching and first base in the past, Joseph is behind the plate full time this year. At 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds, the Arizona recruit is a big kid with tree trunks for thighs. He has worked on his defensive fundamentals to stay behind the plate as a pro and is above-average in both arm strength and accuracy. He's been sitting lower and working on the mechanics for blocking. With comparisons to both Mike Napoli and Kelly Shoppach, Joseph's calling card is his bat. In the 2009 Power Showcase, an offseason home run derby, Joseph showed off his well-above-average power by putting a few balls in the upper deck at Tropicana Field, and hit a 465-foot bomb that fluttered the American flag hanging from the catwalk in the left-center field power alley.
5. J.R. Murphy, Pendleton School, Bradenton, Fla., B-T: R-R
The scouting consensus seemed to be that Murphy had risen to the top of the pile of Florida prep catchers by the end of the season, after an amazing spring playing for the IMG Academy in Bradenton. Murphy hit .627 with 11 home runs in 102 at-bats, rapping 34 extra-base hits overall and striking out just four times. That built off a strong summer and fall performance, as Murphy starred for the Florida Bombers during Connie Mack play and the World Wood Bat tournament in Jupiter, Fla., in October 2008. Murphy's bat attracts most of the attention, as he has a short, sharp righthanded swing that generates good bat speed and plate coverage. Scouts grade his hit tool ahead of his power, though he's expected to produce average power with wood. He's also athletic, having made a shift from outfield (and occasionally third base) to catcher. He's shown he's more than capable of handling catcher, showing plus arm strength, solid receiving ability and a quick transfer. The Miami recruit has intelligence and makeup needed for the position, as well, and had hit his way into supplemental round consideration.
6. Steven Baron, Ferguson High, Miami, B-T: R-R
Baron is the centerpiece of Duke's recruiting efforts and has strong academic motivation. He always was considered a defense-first catcher, and that's still the case, but he has made significant progress offensively, pushing him toward the front of a crowded, competitive Florida prep catcher crop. Defensively, Baron stands out, with some scouts rating his arm a 70 on the 20-80 scale. He's an above-average defender with a smooth transfer and good footwork. Baron made strides tightening up his body and getting in better shape from fall to the spring, and scouts noticed. He has holes in his swing and doesn't project to hit for a high average, but a .250-hitting Baron could hit 15 home runs. At worst, Baron's defense should get him to the majors, but to buy him out of Duke, a team will have to believe Baron has enough offensive upside to become a regular.
7. Josh Phegley, Indiana, B-T: R-R
No college catcher has done more at the plate over the last two seasons than Phegley, who has hit .400 with 29 homers. He ranked second in Division I with a .438 average as a sophomore and had 14 home runs this spring. Phegley packs a lot of strength in his 5-foot-11, 215-pound frame and has the patience to draw walks and wait for pitches he can drive. Scouts aren't sold on his future production or his defense, however. Some think his bat is a little slow, and he didn't look impressive with wood bats during Team USA tryouts last summer or Indiana's scout day last fall. He bats out of an exaggerated crouch, which makes it difficult for him to catch up to velocity at the top of the strike zone. Phegley bulked up after batting .232 without a homer as a freshman, and his thicker build has cost him defensively. He has plus arm strength but a slow release, leading to average results in shutting down the running game. He has caught 31 percent of basestealers over the last two years. He is a below-average receiver who has been exposed this spring by Eric Arnett's explosive fastball and Matt Bashore's breaking pitches. He does block balls well. Phegley profiles only as a catcher, so he'll have to improve behind the plate. Scouts do rave about his makeup and believe he'll put in the work to do so. Phegley should be the first or second college catcher drafted and go off the board before the end of the second round.
8. Cameron Garfield, Murrieta (Calif.) Valley HS, B-T: R-R
In a banner year for prep catchers, Garfield stands out as one of the best pure defenders. At 6-feet and 190 pounds, Garfield is fit, strong and powerful. His pop times range from 1.85 to 1.90 seconds at showcase events, with one scout clocking a 1.78, and he has an above-average arm. Scouts' primary worry is that Garfield shines at showcases and struggles in games. He often puts on eye-opening power exhibitions during batting practice, but he has trouble carrying those results into games. He has a breathtakingly quick bat, but he often pulls off the ball and opens his front side, pulling the ball hard but foul. Failure to track the pitch and let it get deep throws off his timing, though he will occasionally show the ability to stay back on the breaking ball. Doubts may exist about Garfield's bat, but few doubts exist about his defense. His bat shows the promise of power, but he'll need improvement to bring it up to big league average.
9. Austin Maddox, Eagle's View Academy, Jacksonville, B-T: R-R
Having made the varsity as a sixth-grader at his private school, Maddox has been a high-profile player for much of his prep career, helping Eagle's View to a pair of state 1-A championships. He took a star turn with USA Baseball's 18U team, hitting .367 with a team-best six extra-base hits, including one of the team's two home runs. He hasn't held up as well under the scrutiny this spring. He's among the nation's most physical players, strong and built like an ox at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, with two premium tools near the top of the scale. His raw power and arm both rate near 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. He's strong and has a leveraged swing that allows him to drive the ball for home run power to all fields. He has reached 96 mph as a pitcher, though he's more of a prospect at the plate. His arm stroke has gotten longer, making him less accurate as a catcher and hampering his pitching. Maddox faces weak competition and hadn't dominated as hoped this spring. More telling, he has not shown enough athleticism, making some scouts wonder how long he'll remain behind the plate. If the Florida recruit is not a catcher, he likely will be limited to first base, where the offensive demands are much more significant.
10. Luke Bailey, Troup HS, LaGrange, Ga., B-T: R-R
Bailey entered the season at the front of the national group of high school catchers, one of the strongest positions in the draft. He had shown a rare combination of hitting ability, raw power and arm strength, all of which graded above-average, as well as solid athleticism and surprising speed. Bailey's offense had slipped this spring, as he hit just three home runs. Scouts said he was tinkering too much searching for power, trying different strides and different timing mechanisms. Scouts had no questions about him defensively, where he ranks among the best athletes in the prep catcher group, and he showed toughness as a junior by playing through a broken rib. He has plenty of arm strength and was doing some ill-advised pitching for his high school team before going down with Tommy John surgery in April. Bailey has an Auburn commitment, having grown up a fan, but still was expected to be signable, much as the late Nick Adenhart signed after having had the surgery back in 2004.
11. Mark Fleury, North Carolina, B-T: L-L
Fleury was a reserve and part-time DH for most of his first two seasons at North Carolina, then emerged as one of the Tar Heels' most important performers as a junior. He'd started every game this spring and led the team in RBIs while throwing out 33 percent of basestealers. Fleury's lefthanded bat and solid catch-and-throw skills should push him up draft boards, particularly with so few college catchers available. He doesn't have a standout tool, but he was one of the better all-around catchers in the Cape Cod League last summer and built on that this year. He's a patient hitter with solid-average power, and his discipline gives him a chance to have a solid hit tool as well. He hangs in well against lefthanded pitchers, having seen plenty in North Carolina's lefty-heavy lineup. Fleury's arm earns mixed reviews, with some scouts rating it above-average and others as solid-average. He has handled velocity well at North Carolina and earns plaudits from scouts for his leadership skills and ability to lead a pitching staff.
12. Andrew Susac, Jesuit HS, Sacramento, B-T: R-R
13. Josh Leyland, San Dimas (Calif.) HS, B-T: L-L
14. Carlos Ramirez, Arizona State, B-T: R-R
15. Miles Hamblin, Howard (Texas) JC, B-T: R-R
16. Tucker Barnhart, Brownsburg (Ind.) HS, B-T: B-R
17. Nolan Arenado, El Toro HS, Lake Forest, Calif., B-T: R-R
18. Michael Ohlman, Lakewood Ranch HS, Brandenton, Fla., B-T: R-R
19. Jonathan Meyer, Simi Valley (Calif.) HS, B-T: R-R
20. Michael Zunino, Mariner HS, Cape Coral, Fla. B-T: R-R
21. Eric Castro, San Diego State, B-T: L-R
22. Ryan Ortiz, Oregon State, B-T: R-R
23. Trevor Coleman, Missouri, B-T: B-R
24. Eugene Escalante, Rodriguez Hs, Fairfield, Calif., B-T: R-R
25. Wes Luquette, Newman School, New Orleans, B-T: R-R