Top Catching Prospects

Myworld attempts to identify the top ten catching prospects in the minor leagues. This is my opinion based on numbers since we have not seen all of these players play. For the next couple weeks we’ll try to go around the diamond.

1. Adley Rutschman (Orioles) - The first pick in the 2019 draft. The last time the Orioles drafted a catcher in the first round (2007 fifth overall pick) his name was Matt Wieters. Matt has had a good career in the major leagues but when he was in college his bat was going to make him special. That bat never really showed up. Like Matt, Adley is a switch hitter and comes with the same two way press clippings, a powerful bat who can play the defensive game. He makes good contact, walking more than he struck out in college and has the potential to hit for power. He also has a strong arm that can control the running game. At 6′2″ he is solidly built but still agile enough behind the plate. In his professional debut he has walked (5) more than he has struck out (4), but his batting average is less than desired (.176). It is a small sample size of only 34 at bats and it comes after a heavy college season. Adley should get enough experience that he should play in the full season league next year.

2. Joey Bart (Giants) - A similar story for Bart who will eventually be called upon to replace Buster Posey, who has had a good career with the Giants. Like Wieters, Posey was a fifth overall pick (2008) but his offensive game has been better. At 32 years of age his catching shelf life is about to expire and Bart is poised to replace him. Joey was a first round pick in 2018 and was the second overall pick, coming out of the same college as Wieters (Georgia Tech). His first season in rookie ball he shined with 13 homeruns and a .364 average. Those are the kind of numbers we expected from Adley. Joey is also a two way player with a powerful arm to control the running game and a good bat to hit in the middle of the lineup. At 6′3″ he is also a big catcher but very agile behind the plate. For the 2019 season the Giants started him in the California League where his bat continues to shine (.270, 12 homeruns) with a .815 OPS. His speed and ability to make contact is not as strong as Adley but he should make an impact with the Giants by 2021.

3. Will Smith (Dodgers) - Will was a first round pick of the Dodgers in 2016. At the start of the season he wasn’t even considered the best catcher in the Dodgers system. After the way he has handled major league pitching this year (.326, 6 homeruns, 1.199 OPS) he may not be eligible as a rookie next year since he is now the Dodgers starting catcher in the middle of a playoff race. Based on his career minor league numbers (.236 average) the batting average should not stay at that level, but his power is real. He also has a strong arm and is showing good maturity with a veteran Dodger pitching staff in a playoff race. Keibert Ruiz will find it tough to wrest the catching job from Smith, but the Dodgers appear to be set at catching for the long term. This year Will did hit .269 with 20 homeruns in just 60 games at AAA, where the baseballs may have been a little juiced. For a power hitter he makes good contact.

4. Miguel Amaya (Cubs) - With Wilson Contreras behind the plate the Cubs are not in an immediate need to find a catcher. They found Miguel in Panama, where they signed him for $1.25 million in 2015. His defensive game at this point is above his offensive game, but his power began to show last year with 12 homeruns in his first exposure to the full season leagues. A promotion to the Carolina League for 2019 has seen some offensive struggles (.232) but he has shown some patience at the plate (.347 OBA) and continues to display his power (8 homeruns). His defensive game has improved to such a point that he may be one of the best defensive catchers in the minor leagues. Despite his offensive struggles Miguel should see AA next year and Wilson should start looking in the rear view mirror at his next replacement.

5. Francisco Alvarez (Mets) - The Mets have had a number of promising catchers that have performed less than their expectation once they reached the major leagues. Francisco comes from the catching haven of Venezuela and signed in 2018 for $2.7 million. He did not play last year. At 17 years of age he still has some work to do on his defensive game. He has been pretty impressive with the bat in his first year hitting .462 with two homeruns in just 26 at bats. The Mets promoted him to Kingsport where he continues to rake with a .355 average with two more homeruns. His OPS sits at an impressive 1.073. At 5′11″ and 220 pounds Francisco is a bulky catcher. To stay agile behind the plate he will have to watch his weight. A promotion to the full season league next year is expected.

6. Keibert Ruiz (Dodgers) - Keibert was signed out of Venezuela in 2014 for $140,000. Will Smith has been a step ahead of him on the catching ladder. Keibert was signed for his defense, but his bat has been pretty impressive as well, with a .309 career average entering the 2019 season. The power may not be as great as Smith but he has a better ability to make contact and hit for a higher average. Both players have a strong defensive game. This year Keibert struggled a bit in AA, where he played last year (.254) but a promotion to AAA has seen him increase that average (.324). The Dodgers could leave Ruiz in AAA next year as insurance to an injury to Smith but at some point they will have to make a decision who their starting catcher is.

7. Ronaldo Hernandez (Rays) - Ronaldo was signed out of Colombia in 2014 for a bargain price of $225,000. No catcher on this list has a stronger arm than Hernandez. The other parts of his game still need some work. The Rays converted him to catcher after signing him so his experience is still limited behind the plate. Last year Ronaldo played his first year in a full season league and clubbed 21 homeruns. His career average entering the 2019 season is .306. Playing in the pitcher friendly Florida State League he is hitting .274 with 7 homeruns. His .413 slugging is about 70 points under his career minor league average. The Rays will show patience with him but he could be the Rays first home grown catcher in more than a decade.

8. Shea Langeliers (Braves) - Shea was a first round pick of the Braves in 2019, the ninth player selected in the draft. His defensive tools are supreme with an arm equal to Hernandez. He was considered the best defensive catcher in college baseball. His bat could be a question mark, but he did break an NCAA tournament record with 11 RBIs in one game. The Braves debuted him in Low A where he has struggled with the bat (.211). When you consider the Orioles have started Adley in the rookie leagues the immediate promotion of Shea to full season was an aggressive move. They may start him in Low A to begin the 2020 season but he could be up with the Braves very quickly.

9. Sam Huff (Rangers) - Sam was a seventh round pick in 2016 out of high school. Catchers drafted out of high school usually do not have the same success as catchers drafted out of college. At 6′4″ Sam is large for a catcher but his athleticism and strong arm keep him behind the plate. His large frame gives him exceptional power. Last year he hit 18 homeruns at Low A. The downside was a troubling 23/140 walk to whiff ratio. This could hurt him average wise as he sees more advanced pitching. The Rangers repeated him at Low A this year and after hitting .333 with 15 homeruns in just 30 games they quickly promoted him to High A. The homerun numbers have slowed (10 in 70 games) but the average still remains high (.278). He still continues to struggle to make contact (23/116 walk/whiff ratio in 101 games) so that will have to be monitored. His defense is strong enough that if he hits below .250 with 20 plus homeruns he should make it as a starter.

10. William Contreras (Braves) - The younger brother of Wilson. His offensive game is probably just above his defensive game at this point. He has a strong arm behind the plate, good athleticism and with more experience should be an upper level defender like his older brother. His offensive game has the same potential for power as his brother. Last year he hit 11 homeruns at Low A but failed to hit a homerun in his 83 at bats in the Florida State League. That is where he started his 2019 season and though his offensive numbers were not great (.263, 3 homeruns) he was still promoted to AA. William makes good contact and his power should improve as he matures. Expect him to be with the Braves sometime late next year as a September callup.

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