Continuing our run through the Top 10 Lists for prospects, we find ourselves at the catchers position. A position that finds some right now players that could make a serious impact as early as the beginning of this season and down through the Top 10 into our 360 for some really young backstops that could be flying up the charts this year with the likes of Realmuto, Maron, Hernandez and Alfaro. So once again, let’s take a step back and take a broad look at the minor leagues as we go position by position and bring to you the Top Position Lists with some additional players and information.
Because as we said, we’ll be analyzing the Baseball Instinct 360° not only full circle, but 365 days a year. The deeper we get into the video and our customized Instinctools Stat System the more the view changes from the top.
So let’s get into the catchers position and give you the list and some of the current thoughts.
In the Top 100
5°. Jesus Montero, C/DH, Mariners, 11/28/1989 - Montero came in at #1 on our 2011 Top 100 List based on his advanced bat at a young age and making it all the way to Triple-A as a catcher. As we said in his Prospect Instinct, a perfect storm of events have led to him being in line for a shot at the catchers position in the Bronx. His contact ability is elite regardless of where he plays. He’ll have above average power as a 20-something and elite level power in his prime. How long he actually sticks at catcher is dependent of how well Joe Girardi and Tony Pena are able to cultivate him. But those two are the reason for my optimism of a future average regular on defense and glowing reviews on offense. ETA 2012.
Update Instinct – Well, the trade to Seattle finally happened. It looks like Seattle thinks he can handle a full catchers workload. He’s not going to be the best defender in the league, I think we all know that already. But the bat is legit and fantasy players should take note now. Real baseball? His bat will need to carry him and we think it can.
25°. Devin Mesoraco, C, Reds, 6/19/1988 – He was called up in September and did get 50 major league at-bats with little success, but the previous data suggests that he has the raw skill-set to adapt to the big show. He likely starts 2012 with the Reds and doesn’t look back. Though there could be a little adjustment time as he adapts to the new level of competition, Mesoraco looks to be a high-end catcher and quite possibly an all-star catcher in the major leagues. ETA 2012.
Update Instinct – Mesoraco is catcher to look for on draft or auction day for this fantasy players out there. He’s the catcher of the future in Cincinnati they believe in him enough that they shipped out Yasmani Grandal who 2nd rung on the ladder.
47°. Travid D’Arnaud C, Blue Jays, 2/10/1989 - D’Arnaud has a quick bat and uses the whole field. Offensively he had a great year in AA putting up triple slash line of .311/.371/.542 including 21 home runs. Though scouts believe in his tools, temper your expectations of him. He played in a hitting friendly environment but still had 33bb to 100k in 466pa, 424ab. He should be able to hit for average and some power, while being average defensively in the majors. He’s currently blocked in Toronto, but he does make for a nice trade chip and should get some time in the majors in 2012, but will likely get a lengthy stay in AAA. ETA 2013.
Update Instinct – Travis made huge leaps last year in proving the bat is major league caliber and his defense made strides as well. Despite all of his gains, he’s still blocked in Toronto by a player that had a breakout of his own in Arencibia. So it won’t be easy for him to break into playing time. Possible trade chip.
68°. Yasmani Grandal, C Padres, 11/8/1988 – We can look at his current production to evaluate his potential. His bat is a legitimate middle-of-the-order bat. Last year he slugged a .500 slugging percentage across 3 levels of competition with 14 hr’s and 68 rbi’s in 374 at-bats. The Padres have no one in the way for this Hurricanes product. Grandal should make his debut some time in 2012 and be an above average defender and hitter. Not easy to find catcher who can work both sides of the game and handle a pitching staff. Grandal seems to be that type of player. ETA 2012.
Update Instinct – Grandal probably won’t be a viable option for 2012, at least not for Fantasy Players, but should see some time in San Diego before taking over the pitching staff in 2013. League average player across the board.
74°. Gary Sanchez, C, Yankees, 12/2/1992 - Patience and immaturity, and not his ability, are major factors at this point for Sanchez. When his head is in the game full on, he takes more walks and strikes out less. That’s when his elite raw power shows through. With as much chaos that has surrounded him we’re talking about a longer learning curve. His concentration on learning the ways of a professional catcher no doubt hinder his performance at the plate right now. He may not make his debut for another 3+ years if he going to be a catcher. ETA 2015.
Update Instinct – Sanchez is way off and if his immaturity issues are behind him he has the talent to rocket up this list. Or those issues could resurface and he’ll set himself back. I’m keeping at this level based on his bat and projection as a true catcher, but there are other players who are actually producing that we can’t hold down forever.
81°. Christian Bethancourt, C, Braves, 9/2/1991 - Since his arrival, Bethancourt has had a reputation for his defensive skills behind the plate, particularly an arm that gunned down 38% base stealers in the 2011 season. Bethancourt’s offensive stats (.303/.323/.430) improved against Sally League pitching. The Braves promoted him to Hi A-Lynchburg midseason and he’s not looking back. His stats in the Carolina League were decent (.271/.277/.325), but in no way did he struggle. He followed up his 2011 season by impressing scouts, both defensively and offensively, in the AFL. Bethancourt hit .306 and slugged .556, matching the 5 HRs he had in 2011. Although the AFL favors hitters, Bethancourt was one of the youngest players and played well against older and more advanced competition. ETA 2014.
Update Instinct – With his AFL performance I have a pretty good feeling about moving him up the list when the first update of the 360° rolls. Bethancourt has seen placement in our Top 100 overall in the past and I don;t see him sliding out again. The catcher of the future for the Braves.
87°. Ryan Lavarnway, C, Red Sox 8/7/87 - Lavarnway hit .294/.373/.561 at AA/AAA in 2011. Lavarnway’s value lies with his bat. Though he has an average arm and has made improvements in his receiving his skills, it’s unlikely he will even be average defensively. That said, his bat is good enough to make him a starting catcher and sometimes field presence is something that can make a catcher a leader. That’s something Lavarnway seems to have. He’s going to get a shot at being the everyday catcher at some point in 2012. ETA Now.
Update Instinct – Lavarnway is another bat first catcher, but I think too much emphasis is put on his lack of defense upside as opposed to his current skill set. He can handle the catching duties as long as his bat provides additional value above replacement. We think he has that above average bat with some power and should be more than efficient as at least a part-time back stop.
The Best of the Rest of Top 10
105°. Wilin Rosario, C, Rockies, 2/23/1989 – We were a little high on Rosario coming into 2011, but the missed time set him back a little. With the Rockies recent signing of Ramon Hernandez, Rosario will most likely be sent to Triple-A in 2012, where he’ll work on cutting down the strikeouts, rather than sitting on the bench as a back-up catcher. In the long run, Colorado probably won’t be extremely picky about the k’s as long as he keeps giving them production at a reasonable level for a full-time power hitter. ETA 2012.
Update Instinct – This is still a tough grade. The skill set that we held him in such high regard for last year is still there. He’s going to have above average power, but will he be a .280 hitter or more of a .240 type that can hit above average home runs? Maybe he should still be a top 10 catcher and top 100 overall. He should get some Triple-A time, so we’ll know soon enough.
129°. Sebastian Valle, C, Phillies, 7/24/1990 - Valle should move along with May and Pettibone until they all reach Philadelphia in 2013-14. Unless the Phillies go out and sign a free agent to take over the catcher spot, Valle is the future and there wasn’t much to make me think he can’t handle the challenge. All Star? No. But a professional major league catcher? That, Valle is. ETA 2014.
Update Instinct – No change in what we see for Valle. But this seems like we may have over ranked him based on his true upside. We still think he’s a major leaguer with a nice skill set for a catcher. But borderline Top 100? I think he might be on the way down this ranking at the next update of the 360°.
152°. J.R. Murphy, C, Yankees, 5/13/1991 - Murphy was drafted in 2009 by the Yankees and is another catcher in the system. While he doesn’t have the power of Montero or Sanchez, he is already a more complete hitter than Sanchez. He doesn’t strike out much with just 38 in 256 Sally League at bats. He still needs to learn how to take more walks and work the count into better situations for him to use his average power. But overall he hit .287 over two levels with 7 HR and 29 doubles. Check out Murphy in this Touch’em All article. ETA 2015.
Update Instinct – With Murphy at Tampa this year we should get a great look at him. So look for a full Scouting Report from our Prospect Instinct series after the Tampa Yankees visit Jupiter in early May.
The Best of the Rest
154°. Tommy Joseph, C, Giants, 7/16/1991 - Having played 2 professional seasons, it is still difficult to gauge the value of Joseph to the organization. He has shown much improvement from his unremarkable 2010 season. He improved his defensive skills by cutting down on his error rate and passed balls, while increasing his percentage of runners caught stealing. The offensive numbers showed nice improvement as well. With 95 rbi’s and 22 hr’s in 514 ab’s there is definitely some potential for power productivity in his bat. However, the 102k/29bb could stand for some improvement. His .317 OBP underscores his need to increase his walk rate. We would like to see an increase his contact rates and lower the number of strikeouts. As we noted in our Touch ‘em All article, he took nicely to being played consistently at the catcher position during the last half of the 2011 season. ETA 2014.
174°. J.T. Realmuto, C, Marlins, 3/18/1991 - Realmuto hit .287/.347/.454 with 12 HR and 13 SB in 2011 at Single-A Greensboro. He’s another position player set to debut in the FSL in 2012 and we will be there, video camera in hand. He’s got a rocket for an arm to, gunning down nearly half of those who would try to oppose him. There’s plenty of development, but he projects out as a solid regular with the bat and glove. ETA 2015.
189°. Derek Norris, C, Athletics, 2/14/1989 - At first glance the drop in batting average 3 years straight (.286 to .235 to .210) for Norris is concerning. His triple slash of .210/.367/.446 in 2011 is puzzling as this gave him a .236 ISoP. He’s got good pop in his bat and can get on base and steal bases, despite striking out a ton. Now in Oakland, he’s close to the big leagues and should be a solid backup while maturing. If he ever becomes an average contact hitter he’ll have the power and OBP of a star. But that’s a long stretch considering the .210 AVG in 2011. ETA 2012.
219°. Andrew Susac, C, Giants, 3/22/1990 – The number 86 pick in 2011 draft, Susac has average defensive skills but a plus throwing arm. At the plate he’s got good contact skills for a catcher and will offer a little pop. He has the potential to be a pretty good catcher, but we got to wonder where he fits in with Buster Posey in the majors and Tommy Joseph ahead of him in the minors blocking the path. Could end up being trade bait in the Yasmani Grandal fashion. ETA 2014.
231°. Blake Swihart, C, Red Sox, 4/03/1992 – The top catcher in the 2011 amateur draft, Swihart is very athletic switch hitter who has plus bat speed and a fluid swing from both sides of the plate. The potential is there for him to hit for average and power and to be a solid backstop. There’s a chance with his frame and athletic ability that he gets moved to another position, possibly the outfield. He’s got plenty of time to develop. ETA 2015.
236°. Camden Maron, C, Mets, 1/20/1991 – Maron is a NYC product, trained at The Performance Factory in Farmingdale, NY by hitting guru Joe Francisco. Maron has clearly been an advanced hitter since being drafted in the 34th round in 2009. The Mets took advantage of being able to see the area native more than many other scouting departments. Maron’s walk rates of 14.3%, 11.9% and in 2011 a rate of 15.4% are very impressive for such a young player and when paired with the 13.8% K rate in 2011, you know his contact ability is apparent already. He hit .318 AVG with 8 doubles and 3 HR and has a solid frame for a catcher that should continue to fill out. He could move quickly up this list in 2012 and enter the Mets upper echelon of prospects. ETA 2015.
285°. Oscar Hernandez, C, Rays, 7/09/1993 – Very much a “wow, look at those numbers” addition to this list, Hernandez destroyed the VSL in 2011. So much so that he has to be taken serious as a prospect because even if he regresses by 25% of his production the numbers are still great. He hit .402/.503/.732 while playing excellent defense with a great arm behind the plate and good catchers frame at 6′/200. Caution: It was the VSL. He’s one to watch without a doubt and we’ll be watching very closely while he comes stateside for Princeton in 2012. ETA 2016.
287°. A.J. Jimenez, C, Blue Jays, 5/01/1990 – A top flight defensive catcher that is less touted than others in the system. He works well with his pitchers and has a strong arm. With his contact ability, .303/.347/.417 in the FSL in 2011, he should be able to hit enough to make it as a backup in the majors. He has good bat speed but it hasn’t translated to HR power yet. He should move to Double-A in 2012 and the power should start to show itself. 10-15 HR annually with a .280 AVG isn;t out of the question. If Arencebia continues to rake, Jimenez makes one Travis D’Arnaud an expendable highly sought after commodity. ETA 2013.
317°. Gabriel Lino, C, Orioles, 5/17/1993 – The O’s have quietly put together a nice system. Lino is a young catcher with plenty of upside, his plate discipline is excellent for such a young player and actually bodes well for his game calling as he matures as a catcher. He knows the strike zone and doesn’t get beat at the plate outside the zone. How well he adjusts to off speed stuff as he climbs the ladder will determine if he becomes a major league regular. But he’s a catching prospect to keep a close eye on in 2012. A .180 IsoP at age 18 and just a 14.6% K rate led to a .282 AVG with 6 doubles and 2 HR in 78 AB. ETA 2016.
322°. Jett Bandy, C Angels 3/26/1990 - Undoubtedly one of the coolest names in baseball, the former 31st round pick in 2011 had a great season, posting a triple slash of .307/.392/.492, mostly with the Arizona League Angels, but getting looks across 4 levels. Him and fellow draftee Able Baker will man Low-A and High-A in 2012. If Bandy keeps playing well, he could be at AA before the season is over. ETA 2015.
327°. Austin Romine, C Yankees 11/22/1988 - He hit .276, 16 HR, 116 RBI in over 200 games played at Double-A in 2010 and 2011. He’s clearly over shadowed by the wealth of catching depth within the Yankees system. Romine will duke it out for a job in spring training, however it seems unlikely that his future is with the Bronx Bombers. If anyone ever needed a trade, it’s Austin Romine. ETA NOW.
334°. Austin Hedges, C Padres 8/18/1992 – He’s defensively a gem behind the plate with a bat that’s a work in progress. The Padres think that he can develop into a solid catcher. Now that Yasmani Grandal is with the Padres, there’s no reason to rush him and I’m hoping they opt to send him to extended spring training and then back to the Northwest League so that we can get a good look at him before jumping him up the Midwest League. ETA 2015.
349°. Hector Sanchez, C Giants 11/17/1989 - Sanchez is right at the door step of sticking in San Francisco as the backup for Buster Posey. He has enough raw tools to become regular starting catcher in the major leagues, but he needs to increase his strike zone management. It is important that Sanchez is allowed to work on his swing and continue to develop his defensive game to be more prepared for the next time that he is called up. ETA 2012.
357°. Jorge Alfaro, C Rangers 6/11/1993 – Young catcher with a solid backstop frame, plus-plus arm and POP times under 2.00. Plenty of development needed and plenty of time. He hit .300 in 2011 over 160 AB in SS Northwest League, but 54 K and just 4 BB show there is plenty of growth needed in his approach, .181 IsoP shows the upside of average power and average speed with above avg to plus defensive ability. ETA 2015.
The 2011 Draftee to Watch in 2012
Cameron Gallagher, C Royals 12/6/1992 - Gallagher hit .157/.273/.300 – HR-2/RBI-9/R-8. He also had a 19/10 K/BB ratio in 108 at bats over 28 games with the Rookie Level Royals of the Arizona League and the Rookie Level Idaho Falls Chukars of the Pioneer League. The 6’3″ Gallagher comes from a baseball pedigree. His dad and older brother played professional baseball. He’s an excellent defensive catcher, but his hitting mechanics are a work in progress. He should stick behind the plate and actually have a career if he can hit some. The Royals have 4 Rookie Level teams, 3 of which are in the states, so he could be just about anywhere in 2012. Considering he finished off the season in the Pioneer League, it stands to reason that he should be there.
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