- Full name Nicholas Anthony Ciuffo
- Born 03/07/1995 in Mount Pleasant, SC
- Profile Ht.: 5'11" / Wt.: 205 / Bats: L / Throws: R
- School Lexington
- Debut 09/03/2018
Drafted in the 1st round (21st overall) by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2013 (signed for $1,972,200).
View Draft ReportNobody helped themselves more at the National High School Invitational than Nick Ciuffo. Against premium competition, he showed good hitting ability, refined catching skills and an improved frame--standing at a chiseled 6-foot-1, 205 pounds with broad shoulders. Ciuffo stood out on the summer circuit for his bat and chance to catch, but scouts have been impressed by his improvements behind the plate. He is a good receiver with a strong arm and quick release. He plays with energy and has matured into a leader on the field for a nationally ranked team. He projects to hit for at least average power and draws comparisons to A.J. Pierzynski for his tools and competitive edge. He committed to South Carolina before recording a varsity at-bat and has excellent baseball aptitude, recalling at-bats against Stetson Allie as a freshman and breaking down opposing players for scouts. He's not as athletic as Reese McGuire and doesn't have the same power as Jonathan Denney, but he has the best all-around skills of that group and could go in the first round.
Organization Prospect Rankings
Ciuffo's steady and methodical climb through the minors since he was the 21st overall selection in the 2013 draft continued at Montgomery in 2017, his first season in Double-A. He has been named the organization's defensive player of the year in each of the past two seasons. Ciuffo displays soft hands, moves well behind the plate, and works exceptionally well with pitchers. He threw out 38 percent of basestealers after nailing 59 percent in 2016. He has well-above-average arm strength with a quick release and accuracy. He also possesses above-average receiving skills, displaying good footwork with the ability to block pitches and frame the ball well. Drafted with an eye on his lefthanded bat, Ciuffo's offensive production has lagged behind his defense, but he continues to show power potential in batting practice with above-average bat speed. He uses an up-the-middle approach, and could hit for some power as he sharpens his ability to drive the ball. Ciuffo was left off of the 40-man roster and went unpicked in the Rule 5 draft. He has a chance to be starting catcher in the big leagues if his bat develops. A full season at Triple-A Durham awaits in 2018.
The Rays were drawn to Ciuffo as a lefthanded-hitting catcher with promising power potential, even though high school catchers are a notoriously risky draft demographic. Ciuffo has progressed through the low minors but redefined his profile over the years, now figuring to have more of an impact defensively than offensively. Ciuffo's offense did show signs of life in 2016, however. He advanced to the high Class A Florida State League, a notoriously pitcher-friendly league. After a routine April, Ciuffo broke out in May, batting .340. His progress was derailed by a midseason hand injury, but he remains an intriguing defense-first prospect now with some offensive success to note. Ciuffo shows impressive receiving skills and some evaluators graded him as a plus defender in 2016, noting his soft hands, rapport with pitchers and framing technique. He also has above-average arm strength and accuracy. His defense is advanced enough for him to profile as a backup, but he continues to show promise in batting practice and he has the bat speed to catch up to quality velocity. Ciuffo's hitting has been light for most of his pro career, but he is headed in the right direction.
Ciuffo's raw power and promise behind the plate intrigued the Rays, who seem to constantly be searching for a homegrown catcher, when they selected him 21st overall in 2013. He's come along slowly offensively but has continued to show the tools the Rays thought they were getting. Behind the plate, Ciuffo sets a large target and blocks pitches well. His above-average arm strength continued to play in game action in 2015, when he gunned out 45 percent of basestealers. Offensively, Ciuffo has trouble getting to his raw power. Scouts question his pitch recognition skills and note his unrefined approach. Lefthanded pitchers present a challenge for Ciuffo as well. He hit .159 in 82 at-bats against southpaws in 2015. His plus raw power still shows up in batting practice, and the Rays will wait patiently for it to come. The Rays sent him to the Australian Baseball League for extra reps, and he probably will advance to high Class A Charlotte in 2016. If he can improve his contact rate, Ciuffo has a chance to develop into a solid defensive catcher with power, fitting a potential backup profile, with more ceiling if his strike-zone judgment comes on.
The second catcher selected in the 2013 draft, Ciuffo contracted a stomach virus that caused him to lose more than 15 pounds early in the season before he rebounded to put together a solid slate that included throwing out 48 percent of basestealers. Ciuffo's key strengths are his fiery approach and throwing ability, for his plus arm features a quick release and unleashes excellent throws. He also displays good athleticism behind the plate, providing a big target with the ability to block pitches in the dirt. He needs to improve his all-around technique but has the hands to do the job. Ciuffo's bat speed is fringe-average, though he does a good job of barreling pitches when he makes contact. His plate discipline and pitch recognition need work, leads to a tendency to swing and miss. Most of his power comes from pulling the ball. A bump to low Class A Bowling Green seems likely.
The Rays have spent big on prep catchers, investing $750,000 in Luke Bailey (2009) and $1.025 million in Justin O'Conner (2010). They did it again in 2013 with Ciuffo, who signed for $1,972,200. He made a seamless move to pro ball in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, though he tired late in the season. As a lefthanded-hitting receiver who has a chance to produce for power and average, Ciuffo has the traits scouts long for in a catcher. He has above-average bat speed with a solid up-the-middle approach, and his power should become more prominent as he learns to incorporate his lower half into his swing more consistently. He has wide shoulders and a strong, solid build with good athleticism. He displays above-average arm strength with a quick release and above-average accuracy on his throws. An intense, fiery player with a take-charge attitude, Ciuffo leads by example with his hustle and by blocking balls in the dirt and guiding the pitching staff. The Rays tend to move pitchers and catchers slowly, but Ciuffo could make the organization reconsider because he has all the tools. He's expected to open 2014 in extended spring training before drawing a short-season assignment.
Nobody helped themselves more at the National High School Invitational than Nick Ciuffo. Against premium competition, he showed good hitting ability, refined catching skills and an improved frame--standing at a chiseled 6-foot-1, 205 pounds with broad shoulders. Ciuffo stood out on the summer circuit for his bat and chance to catch, but scouts have been impressed by his improvements behind the plate. He is a good receiver with a strong arm and quick release. He plays with energy and has matured into a leader on the field for a nationally ranked team. He projects to hit for at least average power and draws comparisons to A.J. Pierzynski for his tools and competitive edge. He committed to South Carolina before recording a varsity at-bat and has excellent baseball aptitude, recalling at-bats against Stetson Allie as a freshman and breaking down opposing players for scouts. He's not as athletic as Reese McGuire and doesn't have the same power as Jonathan Denney, but he has the best all-around skills of that group and could go in the first round.
Minor League Top Prospects
The second prep catcher drafted in 2013, a strong year for prep catching. Ciuffo reportedly had a stomach virus at the outset of the season that caused him to lose between 15-20 pounds. But he impressed with his work behind the plate as a vocal, fiery and intense leader on the field. Ciuffo has a plus arm with a quick release that produced the second-best caught stealing rate in the league (48 percent). He has the potential to become an above-average defender because he blocks well and his receiving has improved, though it must become more consistent. While Ciuffo's bat still has a ways to go, he could still develop a fringe or average hit tool despite ample swing and miss at present. He tended to get his lefthanded stroke started too late when he got beat, so he worked to limit pre-pitch movement and tone down his deep hitting load. He has a quick stroke with some length and up-the-middle tendencies. Ciuffo has a large frame and strong build and shows plus raw power in batting practice that could play as average to above with greater contact frequency. He is athletic for the position, but a below-average runner.
One of the top high school catchers in the country, Ciuffo went to the Rays in the first round, signing for $1,972,200 as the No. 21 overall pick. He got off to a solid start in the GCL and was hitting over .290 in early August, but he wore down toward the end of the year, recording only one extra-base hit in the final month of the season. While the overall numbers don?t reflect it, Ciuffo still made a positive impression around the GCL. He has wide shoulders, a strong build and good bat speed from the left side. He showed good hitting ability in high school, with a line-drive, gap-to-gap approach. He could incorporate his lower half more into his swing, which could help him develop average power. Ciuffo is a fiery, high-intensity player who takes charge of a game behind the plate. He has an above-average arm with a quick release and made improvements with his receiving over the past year, impressing managers around the league for his ability to block balls in the dirt.
Best Tools List
- Rated Best Defensive Catcher in the Tampa Bay Rays in 2019
- Rated Best Defensive Catcher in the Tampa Bay Rays in 2018