- Full name Jarrod Scott Saltalamacchia
- Born 05/02/1985 in West Palm Beach, FL
- Profile Ht.: 6'4" / Wt.: 235 / Bats: S / Throws: R
- School Royal Palm Beach
- Debut 05/02/2007
Drafted in the C-1 round (36th overall) by the Atlanta Braves in 2003 (signed for $950,000).
View Draft ReportIn a down year for catchers, Saltalamacchia offers the best array of tools behind the plate. He's agile and athletic for a backstop at 6-foot-4 and 195 pounds, and has arm strength and receiving skills. Offensively, he's a switch-hitter with above-average power potential. He does have his detractors, however, who think he's more of a standout at showcases than in game action. His swing is long and he'll need to make adjustments when he switches to wood bats, and his footwork and release will require some work. The biggest question is his ability to hit for average, but it won't stop him from going in the second or third round.
Organization Prospect Rankings
The 36th overall pick in the 2003 draft, Saltalamacchia built a reputation during high school as a big league hitter and has done little to disappoint. He established himself as the best all-around catching prospect in the minors with a breakout 2005 campaign. He rated as the top prospect in the high Class A Carolina League and starred for Team USA in an Olympic pre-qualifying tournament after the season. However, he followed up with his most difficult season as a pro. A lingering wrist injury and focus on improving his defense led to struggles at the plate during the first half of the year. Saltalamacchia batted just .197 with four homers in the first three months before going on the disabled list with an injury to his wrist. He bounced back by hitting .338 with five homers in his last 23 games before leaving Double-A Mississippi to rejoin Team USA for an Olympic qualifying tournament. Saltalamacchia helped the United States qualify for the 2008 Beijing Games and capped the event with a homer off Cuban closer Pedro Luis Lazo. He continued to rake in a brief stint in the Arizona Fall League, going 13-for-23 (.535) with three homers before hamstring problems shut him down. Saltalamacchia's calling card is his ability to hit and drive the ball from both sides of the plate. He has one of the sweetest swings in the game from the left side, displaying natural loft that should produce solid home run numbers. Despite his troubles in 2006, the Braves have no concerns about his offense, especially with the way he regrouped at midseason. His walk rate continues to increase as he climbs the minor league ladder. Considered suspect defensively coming out of high school, Saltamacchia has worked hard to get better. He spent the spring picking veteran Todd Pratt's brain to upgrade his game-calling ability, and he continues to get more comfortable working with pitchers. He has a strong arm and a release that has quickened considerably, enabling him to throw out 36 percent of basestealers in 2006. Saltalamacchia has shown increased maturity, particularly after getting married midway through the 2005 season. Always upbeat, he has a desire to learn and improve. Consistency is the key to Saltalamacchia reaching the majors. He'll make more consistent contact once he displays more patience. In 2006, opponents noticed Saltalamacchia collapsing the back side of his swing from both sides of the plate. His righthanded swing is a little mechanical, though he was more productive from that side in 2006. He batted .262 against lefties, compared with .214 against righties. Defensively, he needs to continue to improve his footwork and to learn how to set up advanced hitters. Brian McCann is one of the best young catchers in baseball, and while Saltamacchia is similarly gifted, there's room for only one of them behind the plate in Atlanta. For now, Saltalamacchia will continue to work at catcher, where he has the most value. If he doesn't begin the year at Triple-A Richmond, he should get there at some point in 2007. His bat should be ready for Atlanta by mid-2008, when the Braves may have to move him to first base or left field.
While Brian McCann was establishing himself as a quality young backstop in the majors, Saltalamacchia made a case for being the best catching prospect in the minors. The 36th overall pick of the 2003 draft, he has made impressive leaps in mental and physical maturity, leading to rapid improvement on the diamond. After working on his strength and conditioning during the offseason, he established personal bests across the board and rated as the No. 1 prospect in the high Class A Carolina League. He also got married on the beach at midseason. Following the regular season, Saltalamacchia posted a solid showing in the Arizona Fall League and served as a catalyst on Team USA in an Olympic pre-qualifying tournament. He went 7-for-8 at the plate in three games, singling in the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth versus Mexico and swatting a pair of solo home runs against Panama. His brother Justin played briefly in the Braves system in 2003. Just 20, Saltalamacchia has a professional approach beyond his years and power from both sides of the plate. He has a sweet, textbook swing from the left side, with natural loft that should lead to significant home run totals at higher levels. His swing from the right side has become much smoother than when he initially signed, but remains somewhat mechanical. He'll strike out, though not in excessive amounts. Coming out of high school, Saltalamacchia's footwork behind the plate was considered suspect, but he since has proven to be a solid defender with a plus arm. He has refined his throwing mechanics, though he could use more accuracy after throwing out just 26 percent of basestealers at Myrtle Beach. He has nonstop energy, works well with pitchers and has shown more feel for calling a game. What impresses the Braves most about Saltalamacchia's catching is his tremendous desire to improve and his ability to process instruction and put it to use. He's an above-average athlete for a catcher and his sturdy body should hold up well behind the plate. While he's a below-average runner, he's smart on the bases and quicker than most backstops. Numerous clubs inquired about Saltalamacchia's availability during the Winter Meetings, but he's as close to untouchable as any player in the organization. He'll continue his steady progress by moving up to Double-A Mississippi this year. Even though the Braves traded Johnny Estrada in December, they still have McCann and Brayan Pena ahead of him in the system. That means Saltalamacchia will have plenty of time to refine his game, though he could push for a promotion to Triple-A Richmond in 2006. He should be ready for the big leagues at some point in 2007.
The Braves thought they got the best catcher out of the draft in both 2002 (Brian McCann) and 2003 (Saltalamacchia), and nothing has happened to change that thought. Despite wrist and hamstring injuries, Saltalamacchia had a solid first full season. Saltalamacchia's calling card remains his bat. He possesses power from both sides of the plate, especially as a lefthander, where he has a sweet swing with natural loft. He has good physical skills behind the plate, with his arm strength and agility standing out the most. He's more athletic than most catchers. Though he made strides with his defense in 2004, Saltalamacchia's receiving and footwork need further improvement after he erased just 21 percent of basestealers. He's still learning the nuances of calling a game and working with pitchers. He could do a better job of loading his hands from the right side, where his swing looks somewhat mechanical. With his performance at low Class A Rome, Saltalamacchia quieted skeptics who wondered if he'd be able to stay behind the plate. He'll open 2005 in high Class A.
For the second straight year, the Braves believe they emerged with the draft's best catcher. After pulling in Brian McCann with a second-round pick in 2002, Atlanta took Saltalamacchia with the 36th overall selection last June. (The Braves also signed his brother Justin, an outfielder/infielder, as a nondrafted free agent out of UNC Greensboro.) Most draft observers rated the catching class last year as weak, but Saltalamacchia's complete package would have had him near the top of the charts in any year. He possesses a strong frame and displays excellent agility and athleticism, especially for his size. His footwork and release were considered to be his primary weaknesses on draft day, though Saltalamacchia made solid progress in those areas after working most of the summer and fall with minor league instruction coordinator Chino Cadahia, one of the best catching teachers in the business. Saltalamacchia is a switch-hitter with good power potential. His swing tends to get long, particularly late in games, but the Braves have been impressed with the adjustments he has made to wood bats. He showed plenty of plate discipline for a teenager. Saltalamacchia will follow McCann's path, jumping to low Class A for his first full season.
Minor League Top Prospects
Saltalamacchia established himself as the game's best catching prospect after hitting .319 with 19 homers in high Class A last season--only to follow it up with the worst performance of his four-year career. But no one seems overly concerned. To his credit, Saltalamacchia dedicated himself to improving his defense. He worked with 13-year big league veteran Todd Pratt, bolstering his game-calling ability. He continued to show a strong arm and an improved release, throwing out 36 percent of basestealers. His offense was another story, however, as he pulled off pitches from both sides of the plate because of a backside collapse in his swing. He did put his work in, as Mississippi manager Jeff Blauser often had to pry Saltalamacchia away from the batting cage during the season. "He's an outstanding kid," Tennessee manager Bill Plummer said. "I think he just overanalyzes things too much. He needs to just let that natural ability take over."
Major strength and conditioning work, along with dedication to his defense, helped Saltalamacchia boost his stock dramatically this season. Hitting for average and power from both sides of the plate didn't hurt his cause either. Saltalamacchia has good physical tools behind the plate, with a plus arm and better agility than most catchers. While he refined both his receiving skills and his footwork, he still threw out just 26 percent of basestealers. Offensively, Saltalamacchia has outstanding raw power, especially from the left side of the plate, with a sweet swing and natural loft. At 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, Saltalamacchia drew comparisons to Joe Mauer--more for his size than his defensive prowess--but is more along the lines of Jason Varitek. "He's got more of a chance to be Varitek to me," an American League scout said. "The size, the strength, the power are all there."
If he reaches the big leagues, Saltalamacchia will have the longest surname in major league history. Most SAL managers think it's just a matter of time, though Saltalamacchia didn't put up dominant numbers like other players on this list. An early wrist injury and a hamstring pull that ended his season two weeks early contributed to his average showing. Physical and strong, Saltalamacchia shows power from both sides of the plate and the tools to handle the demands of catching. He has a loose, natural swing from the left side with loft power potential and needs to work on his righthanded stroke. Savannah manager Bob Henley liked his work behind the plate. "He's got a good presence back there," said Henley, a former big league catcher. "He can catch and throw, has a strong body and showed a real strong arm."
A switch-hitting catcher with power potential, Saltamacchia earned positive reviews because of the improvement he showed in the second half, both at the plate and behind it. He hit .328 in his final 19 games. "He struggled in the beginning, partly because catching is a difficult position to learn and it was also relatively new to him because he wasn't taught how to play the position in high school," Henriquez said. "He's also a big kid, and it takes bigger kids a little longer to put it all together." Saltalamacchia, whose older brother Justin played outfield and third base for the GCL Braves, showcased an average big league arm. He developed a comfort level batting lefthanded and hit both his homers from that side of the plate. He also impressed managers with his willingness to learn and ability to take charge of a game. He still has a lot of work to do defensively, especially with blocking and receiving. "He's a big kid who simply needs to grow into his body," said Expos manager Bobby Henley, a former big league catcher. "It takes him more time to get his feet moving. But he showed me an above-average arm at times and he has a chance to be a run producer."
Top 100 Rankings
Best Tools List
- Rated Best Hitter for Average in the Atlanta Braves in 2007
- Rated Best Hitter for Average in the Atlanta Braves in 2006