Potential Breakout, Red Flag Catching Prospects In 2019
As part of our 2019 position rankings, BA staffers are picking one breakout prospect and one prospect they are concerned about at every position. First up is the catchers.
Click here to see the 2019 catching prospect rankings.
Breakout: Diego Cartaya, Dodgers
It was a close call between Cartaya and Giants shortstop Marco Luciano as the top 16-year-old international prospect in the 2018 class. Cartaya does so many things scouts want to see in a young catcher. He's flexible and agile behind the plate with a strong arm and a high baseball IQ. He has a short swing, understands the strike zone and uses right-center field well. Now that more power is starting to come, there's even more to like with Cartaya.
Red Flag: Sean Murphy, Athletics
Murphy's defense is impressive. I think he can be an everyday catcher, but relative to the rest of the BA staff, I see more risk in terms of his offensive output. If he goes out and rakes in Triple-A, that changes things, but for now I'm leaning more conservative on him.
Breakout: M.J. Melendez, Royals.
Melendez's 19 home runs last year and 54 extra-base hits are a pretty strong sign of what's to come. But even more impressive was Melendez's continuing physical transformation—as photos from the Royals' recent offseason FanFest can attest. Melendez has a strong arm, he's athletic and he's already tapping into his power. He could quickly climb this list in 2019 by doing much of what he did last year.
Red Flag: Zack Collins, White Sox.
Collins draws plenty of walks and can punish pitchers' mistakes. But despite plenty of hard work, Collins still has a significant ways to go behind the plate defensively, and if he can't catch, his bat isn't really strong enough to handle a move to first base.
Breakout: Ivan Herrera, Cardinals
Herrera still has some work to do defensively, but he's been one of the youngest players everywhere he's been and has always excelled as one of his league's top hitters. He has the hitting ability, physical frame and grinder intangibles to be an impact catcher down the road. Increased feel for the game and defensive skill should come with experience, and he's the type of young player you bank on figuring it out.
Red Flag: Carson Kelly, D-backs
Kelly has been on the prospect radar for awhile—which is a problem. He's looked overmatched against big leaguers both offensively and defensively every time he's had a shot, from spring training to callups, and it's becoming a concerning pattern. His arm played way below-average in the majors last year, and his blocking got him demoted to minor league camp in spring training. Considering defense is supposed to be a calling card, it hasn't been a good look. Combined with a light bat, it's tough to see Kelly being an impactful everyday catcher.