The draft calls keep rolling along and as those continue, so do the notes on players making noise as the draft approaches. In the second Draft Notes of the week, I am touching on a Florida right-hander that’s flying under the radar and take a look at some of the draft’s top catchers.
Newell Not Short on Stuff
Every draft has players that fly under the radar despite impressive stuff, and one of this year’s versions is Shorter College right-hander Ryan Newell. Playing for a small college in Georgia, Newell brings big time stuff to the table.
Multiple scouts over the last few days have reported seeing him work his fastball up to 96-97 mph this spring. He has also consistently showed a slider in the 86-88 mph range with impressive tight spin and tilt. He tries to round his arsenal out with a splitter in the mid-80s, but he lacks a consistent release point and the pitch needs some work.
Newell posted a 9-3 record, 3.01 ERA and 108 strikeouts this spring. His big time stuff and impressive statistics have him moving up draft boards and could have teams being aggressive with him in the top three or four rounds in a couple of weeks. Scouts are split on his projection as a starter or reliever, but he will be given a chance to start upon arrival in pro ball.
Donning the Tools of Ignorance
The catching crop in this year’s draft is pretty thin, particularly once you get beyond the clear top two in the draft in Florida’s Mike Zunino and prep product Stryker Trahan. There are a few catchers that “go good” in the draft next month, largely because of the dearth of true top flight catching talent.
In the Midwest, Purdue’s Kevin Plawecki has a chance to sneak into the sandwich round on the heels of his surety and polish. He is a quality defender that has earned some plus grades from scouts. He is an advanced receiver as an amateur and works very well with his pitching staff. He will need some pro instruction to tighten his throwing skills, but he has the potential to be an all-around plus behind the plate.
Offensively, Plawecki features a very disciplined approach with good pitch recognition and a willingness to work counts and find a pitch he can drive. He has some gap power and scouts lauded his ability to wear out the middle of the diamond with a quick bat and an ability to barrel the ball. Plawecki’s polish and approach should push him straight to a full-season club following the draft.
Washington prep backstop Clint Coulter may be the most physically impressive catching prospect in this year’s draft. He has an incredibly impressive physique, standing 6-foot-3 and weighing in at a chiseled 200 pounds.
Coulter is a work in progress behind the plate but he shows enough agility, receiving ability and the above-average arm strength to make scouts believe he can develop into a solid defender with additional developmental time.
The offensive potential displayed by Coulter is what could make him a high draft pick, possibly falling in the sandwich round along with Plawecki. Coulter’s impressive strength translates to some tape-measure shots in the batter’s box and some scouts have been willing to suggest he could have 70 raw power down the line.
The University of Buffalo is not known for its baseball program, but they may draw more national attention after Tom Murphy is popped next month. Murphy has quietly been moving up draft boards since last summer and while most scouts project him to go in the third round, there are some rumblings that teams could be willing to go get him in the second round to make sure they get him.
As one scout noted to me this spring, “There’s nothing he doesn’t do.”
Murphy calls his own games at Buffalo, showing an advanced feel for helping his pitchers work through a lineup multiple times. He has good catch-and-throw skills, including an above-average arm that has helped generate sub-2.0 pop times with regularity.
He has a knack for hitting and he should hit for average at every stop of his career. He’s not just a one-trick pony with hitting ability being his only offensive attribute though, as he also offers the potential for average power with plenty of doubles while spraying the ball from line to line.
A little off the grid in West Virginia, Nitro High School has a power hitting catcher that merits watching as the draft nears. Korey Dunbar has put up some very impressive numbers during his prep career and has drawn the attention of some area scouts this spring.
“He’s a big strong kid with plenty of power potential,” said a longtime area guy. “He’s an offensive guy with a thick body. He’s 6-1, 210 and there’s a lot of strength in there.”
Scouts have reportedly seen him up to 90-91 mph off the mound and while he certainly has plus raw arm strength, it plays down because his footwork, transfer and release all need improvement. Most scouts consider him a serious work in progress behind the plate, but he is considered signable and has the rare power profile behind the plate that scouts love.
The final catcher to be noted in this piece is Rockwall (TX) High School’s Steve Bean. Throughout the spring scouts have been praising Bean’s defensive potential, noting a 60 arm that can play a little better than that. He also rates very well for his age in his blocking and receiving abilities, with multiple scouts projecting him for plus defense at his peak.
Offensively, Bean has some power projection but that comes with length in his swing and some questions about his hitting ability. Despite that glaring question, scouts remain intrigued enough to get late looks at him and some team may pull the trigger early enough to try and persuade him away from his commitment to play ball at the University of Texas.
While the catching crop in this year’s draft may not be extremely deep, there are some impressive players, particularly those that offer power projection and should stick behind the plate. There should still be several catchers going in the first five rounds next month, and teams could get aggressive with them given the lack of depth.