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Impact Prospects for 2013: The Catchers PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Friday, 18 January 2013 00:00

That time of year has come again. It is mid-January and now that all of (or most of anyway) the holiday goodies have been digested, it’s time to start ingesting draft preparation content!

For those new to this series, my definition of “impact” may be different than others. By impact I mean primarily, “what are the odds they will play in the Majors and how much.” How good are they? Well that’s what the rest of the article is about.

Why this focus? This is elementary of course for re-draft leaguers whose prospect context is only that of a single season. For keeper leaguers (particularly auction-style), I believe focusing on players who are likely to get the call in 2013 is an important mindset for your taxi-squad or minor league draft. If you are in it for 2013, a similar mindset to a re-draft leaguer is necessary. This is beneficial for two reasons. Either (A) you draft a player with the intention that he will contribute this season and vault into your lineup at a low price (particularly if your league utilizes a cap) and provide needed stats or (B) you use that player for leveraging veterans from other players.

The “Impact Prospects” are the most attractive targets for dumping teams as they look towards contending the following season. “Impact Prospects” provide a statistical need at a low price, allowing for auction leaguers to redistribute their budget with great flexibility, opening up a number of strategic options whether they throw all their eggs into offense, or pitching, a stars and scrubs strategy, or whatever else they choose.

There is an exception, of course, to selecting just players who will impact 2013. And that is the uber-prospects that not only have the tools but have high-level skills that suggest they will be potential All-Stars.  Of course, these types of players should be drafted regardless of whether they will actually play in the upcoming season.

And now, the Catchers for 2013!

The Marlins picked up Rob Brantly in the Anibal Sanchez deal and now have him penciled in as their #1 catcher. The 23-year-old is perhaps most comparable to fellow lefty, Josh Thole. The lefty has a fairly disciplined bat and makes consistent contact but is a single-digits HR type without a high ceiling. I recommend him as an end-game, #2 catcher option who could out-earn his projection depending on how well his batting average skills hold up over the course of an entire season.

Travis D'Arnaud gives the Mets the best young catcher they’ve had in their minors since Todd Hundley. D’Arnaud combines a quick, short stroke and legitimate 20+ HR power. Given an aggressive approach and “catcher speed”, there could be quite a variance in the batting average department on a year to year basis. For now, the safest best is to expect a .260 mark and treat anything better as gravy. The righty could start 2013 as the Mets’ starter or spend the first half of the season in Triple-A.

Jason Hagerty makes this article thanks to the suspension of Yasmani Grandal, who will miss the first 50 games of the MLB season. The former fifth round pick combines a fairly good understanding of the strike zone with double-digit home run potential. The switch-hitter's shortcomings, however, are on the defensive side of the ball and this could regulate him to being an organizational player.

Chris Herrmann earned a cup of coffee with the Twins last season and could challenge Drew Butera for the backup catching gig this spring. Butera may have a leg up in the defensive department, but Herrmann is at least average defensively and is strong armed. Being a lefty with gap power and a very solid plate approach could put Herrmann over the top. An interesting sleeper should anything happen to Joe Mauer.

The Phillies have two catching prospects in their upper Minors in Sebastian Valle and Tommy Joseph. The former, Valle, was the reason the Phillies traded D’Arnaud as part of the package for Roy Halladay. Right now, it looks like the wrong decision. Valle has good raw power and defensive chops but is ultra-aggressive at the plate. This became increasingly apparent at both Double-A and Triple-A and it's likely he will be made mincemeat of in the Majors absent a complete plate approach turnaround. 21-year-old Tommy Joseph could end up spending a second season in Double-A or could earn a promotion to Triple-A, though that depends a lot on whether or not the former second-round pick stays behind the plate. Joseph is not in Valle’s class defensively but could be adequate in the long run. At the plate, the righty has greater raw power than Valle, a slightly less aggressive approach and has shown better signs of making contact. While both players could certainly make the Majors as soon as this season, I suspect neither may end up starters for the Phillies.

The White Sox’s Josh Phegley has no proven starter in front of him at the MLB level which gives him a chance to make it. The former supplemental first- round pick was a slugger in college who earned mixed reviews for his defense and bat speed. Health concerns have slowed him down and the righty has yet to reach double digits in any minor league season. He's probably an organizational player, but there may be opportunities given the Sox lack of catching depth.

Austin Romine is likely to start 2013 in Triple-A with Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli at the MLB level. Romine is not a high-ceiling player but is a solid defensive player with fair plate discipline skills, an ability to make contact and gap power. There may be enough here to make the former second-round pick a low-end starter, though he probably profiles better as a backup.

The Mariners are blessed with catching depth. Jesus Montero will open 2013 as the starting catcher and for a 22-year old, actually held his own quite well, already translating some power and contact skills, though his plate discipline lagged behind. Defensively, Montero is adequate at best though and it is only a matter of time before he is forced to shift positions, particularly with 2012 third overall pick Mike Zunino hot on his heels.

Zunino is a superior defensive catcher to Montero and that skill is greatest factor that will get him to the Majors. The righty and so far in the lower minors has shown fairly advanced plate discipline and contact-making skills. The righty also showed above-average power and projects long-term to be a 20+ HR hitter as compared to Montero who could still be an upper twenties or better HR hitter at his peak. Keep in mind that Zunino is a fairly slow runner, so even with his power and contact-making skills, hitting for average is not a given. Just ask Matt Wieters. It will be interesting to see how his skills translate to the upper minors.

It is possible that Zunino could begin 2013 in Triple-A, but they can afford to take it slow with him given Montero’s presence and the fact that Zunino has just 57 plate appearances at the Double-A level and will turn 22 just before the start of the season. Barring injury to Montero, a post All-Star break call-up at earliest seems most likely.

To Review:

Possible MLB Phase Draft/Auction Selections:
Rob Brantly, Travis D’Arnaud, Erik Kratz

Possible Minor League Draft Phase Selections:
Mike Zunino, Sebastian Valle, Tommy Joseph, Austin Romine

Possible In-season Pick-Ups:
Jason Hagerty, Chris Herrmann, Josh Phegley

If you have any questions on players who you felt were omitted from this article, please feel free to ask. 

Last Updated on Sunday, 20 January 2013 15:19
 

More Articles by Rob Leibowitz

Comments  

 
# Baseball Furies 2013-01-18 21:00
Why didn't Mike Zunino make the list, especially with the trade of Jaso to the A's?
 
 
# Rob Leibowitz 2013-01-20 14:18
Unintentional omission. I've updated the piece to include him.
 

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