2012 Preseason Position Rankings: Catchers

Ranking players is one of the bedrocks of what we do here at Baseball America. With the Top 100 Prospects list now in the books, we're not putting the offseason rankings away just yet. Over the next couple of weeks, we're ranking prospects by position, continuing today with catchers.

Wilson Ramos barely cracked last year's Top 100 Prospects list (No. 96), but he went on to produce a memorable rookie season by starting 108 games behind the plate for the Nationals and belting 15 homers. His offseason generated even more headlines when Venezuelan authorities had to rescue him after he was kidnapped. The 2010 rookie catcher class included the Giants' Buster Posey (No. 7) and the Indians' Carlos Santana (No. 10), two bright talents who both have already endured season-ending leg injuries in home-plate collisions. This year's class includes a familiar name in the top spot, followed by two hard-chargers who settled in 15-20 range in our Top 100.

2012 Impact Rookie: Devin Mesoraco, Reds. The way is clear for him to play nearly every day for Cincinnati, where he should provide power and adequate defense for a team expected to contend for a division title. Jesus Montero is the better prospect but rates as more of a DH.

2012 Breakout: Blake Swihart, Red Sox. He already ranks fifth on this list, but his combination of tools and the possibility of graduations of the players ahead of him mean he could be No. 1 on this list next year.

1. Jesus Montero, Mariners: A trade from the Yankees to Mariners promises more playing time for Montero. The righty hitter will need to make use of his ample opposite-field power to thrive.

2. Devin Mesoraco, Reds: Cincinnati made room for Mesoraco by letting free agent Ramon Hernandez walk and trading Yasmani Grandal to the Padres to fetch Mat Latos. Mesoraco has nothing left to prove at Triple-A after batting .283/.364/.482 with 18 homers for Louisville in 2010-11.

3. Travis d'Arnaud, Blue Jays: The reigning Eastern League MVP has charted a steady climb up the Top 100, entering the charts at No. 81 in 2010, advancing to 36 last year and shooting to 16 this year. D'Arnaud, Kyle Drabek and Anthony Gose are what Toronto has left to show for Roy Halladay, so much rests on their development.

4. Yasmani Grandal, Padres: The Padres intend to let the switch-hitter develop in Triple-A this season, though his feel for hitting and solid receiving will be good fits for Petco Park.

5. Blake Swihart, Red Sox: The 26th pick in last year's draft has a long way to go defensively, but the switch-hitter has elite offensive potential.

6. Gary Sanchez, Yankees: Sanchez belted 17 home runs as an 18-year-old in low Class A last season, but questions about his attitude and receiving skills linger.

7. Wilin Rosario, Rockies: Rosario started 14 of the Rockies' final 21 games last season as he gears up for regular play in 2012. He showed two plus tools for Double-A Tulsa in 2010-11 that will play in the bigs: power (40 homers, .495 slugging) and arm strength (39 percent basestealer kill rate).

8. Tommy Joseph, Giants: The power and arm strength appear to be for real, but the 20-year-old Joseph nearly had more homers (22) than walks (29) in Cal League last year—and that shows in his .317 on-base percentage.

9. Austin Hedges, Padres: Perhaps the best defensive catcher in the 2011 draft could require three or four years to refine his offensive tools.

10. Derek Norris, Athletics: The third wheel in Oakland's haul for Gio Gonzalez—behind Brad Peacock and A.J. Cole—belted 20 homers in Double-A last year, but he has hit just .222 in last 632 at-bats.

11. Ryan Lavarnway, Red Sox: The 24-year-old Yale product batted .290/.376/.563 with 32 homers and 93 RBIs in the high minors last year, but can the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Lavarnway catch every day for a first-division club like Boston?

12. Austin Romine, Yankees: The top defender in a system full of bat-first catchers, Romine appeared almost bored as he repeated Double-A last year.

13. Christian Bethancourt, Braves: Scouts love the arm strength, hands and bat-to-ball skills, but a lack of discipline has made for slow going in Class A.

14. Sebastian Valle, Phillies: Valle's performance in 2011 indicates that he took a lateral step from the year before, but the Phillies believe in his potential.

15. J.T. Realmuto, Marlins: The 2010 third-rounder already has rocketed past 2008 first-rounder Kyle Skipworth in the Marlins system.

16. Jorge Alfaro, Rangers

17. Wellington Castillo, Cubs

18. J.R. Murphy, Yankees

19. Tony Sanchez, Pirates

20. A.J. Jimenez, Blue Jays

21. Carlos Perez, Blue Jays

22. Andrew Susac, Giants

22. Hector Sanchez, Giants

24. Tim Federowicz, Dodgers

25. Kellin Deglan, Rangers