A Golden Era? 2022 Could Be Historic Year For Top MLB Catching Prospects
Major league catchers were historically productive in 2012.
As a group, MLB catchers compiled 78.9 wins above replacement that season, according to FanGraphs. That total trails only catchers in 1977, but not by much.
The MLB catcher class of 2012 stood out for its hitting, with a 95 wRC+ that ranks fourth all time for the position. It trails only the 1977 catcher class in terms of offensive production compared to league average since World War II.*
Two of the most productive everyday catchers in 2012 were the Giants’ Buster Posey and Cleveland’s Carlos Santana, both of whom were in their mid 20s. Just two seasons prior, Posey and Santana each ranked as his organization’s No. 1 prospect—and they weren’t the only catchers to do so.
That total of five catchers ranking as organizational top prospects established a record that stood for more than a decade until 2022: The Year of the Prospect Catcher.
A total of seven catchers rank as No. 1 prospects in their organizations as we head into the new year. Listed in alphabetical order with 2021 production and 2022 age and projected starting level, they are:
|Gabriel Moreno||Blue Jays||159||184||22||Triple-A|
Seven catchers ranking as No. 1 prospects is a new high-water mark for Baseball America in the 40 seasons we have performed this exercise—and the prospect catcher depth doesn’t stop there.
The Giants’ Joey Bart, the Pirates’ Henry Davis and the Braves’ Shea Langeliers all rank as No. 2 prospects in their organizations. Coming in at No. 3 in their systems are the Padres’ Luis Campusano, the Royals’ M.J. Melendez and the Rockies’ Drew Romo.
In total, 13 catching prospects rank as No. 1, 2 or 3 prospects for their organizations this year. That total has been eclipsed only once in 40 years of BA ranking history. That would be 2010 when 14 catchers fit the criteria.
Looking at the prospect catcher class of 2010 is instructive for this year’s group. Back then, Montero (No. 4), Posey (7) and Santana (10) ranked as top 10 overall prospects in baseball. Posey and Santana produced at star levels into their 30s, even with the latter moving off catcher early in his career.
Other catchers who were top prospects in 2010 have had long tails in MLB, including Castro (No. 41), Wilson Ramos (58), Tyler Flowers (60), Travis d’Arnaud (81) and Austin Romine (86). Less successful were Derek Norris (38), Tony Sanchez (79), Adam Moore (83) and Conger (84).
Isolating just the catching prospects in 2010 and 2022 who ranked No. 1 in their organizations, we find that both groups collectively have an identical 142 wRC+.
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That is remarkable symmetry that points to what we should expect from the prospect catcher class of 2022. Expect a few catching prospects to develop into stars. Several others will become long-time MLB regulars. A few will switch positions. A few others will fall short of expectations.
While we cannot precisely predict which catchers will excel and which ones will falter—especially at such a volatile position—one thing is clear:
The concentrated value at catcher in the minor leagues today indicates that tomorrow will bring a historically strong group of MLB catchers, one that has the potential to challenge the 1977 and 2012 catcher classes for all-time supremacy.
* The catcher class of 1977 was headlined by Hall of Famers Carlton Fisk, Ted Simmons, Gary Carter and Johnny Bench and also featured Jim Sundberg, Gene Tenace, Thurman Munson, Steve Yeager and Bob Boone.
** Keibert Ruiz qualifies as a prospect for BA because he has not exceeded 130 MLB at-bats, even though he has too much MLB service time to be rookie eligible in 2022.