2013 BPN Top 10 Catching Prospects

Last year’s Top 10 Catchers represented a bumper crop of backstops, many of which graduated to the big leagues. Of the ten players included in last year’s list, Jesus Montero (#1), Devin Mesoraco (#3), Wilin Rosario (#4), Yasmani Grandal (#7), Derek Norris (#8) and Ryan Lavarnway (#10) have all graduated, leaving plenty of space for newcomers.

1. Austin Hedges – San Diego Padres
2. Travis d’Arnaud – New York Mets
3. Mike Zunino – Seattle Mariners

After just missing last year’s ranking, Austin Hedges vaults to the top of the list in this version. The best defensive catcher in the minor leagues, Hedges could be a monster behind the plate and showed surprising ability at the plate in his full-season debut. D’Arnaud’s trade to the Mets pushes him a little under the radar but he still represents one of the best all-around catching prospects in the game. Zunino was a top pick of the Mariners last summer and while there are still scouts that believe he will be more solid than star, Zunino is a quality defensive catcher with some feel for hitting and power in his bat.

4. Gary Sanchez – New York Yankees
5. Jorge Alfaro – Texas Rangers
6. Christian Bethancourt – Atlanta Braves

This next tier of prospects represents three players with huge upside and also some significant developmental hurdles. Jorge Alfaro has the highest upside of the trio, offering exceptional arm strength, raw defensive tools and crazy raw power. His ceiling is that of an All-Star, but he also comes with considerable risk. Gary Sanchez has the offensive potential to carry him at any position on the diamond, but his attitude and defense will have to come along for him to stick behind the plate. Bethancourt is the exact opposite, owning a tremendous arm and defensive tools that rank closely behind Austin Hedges, but his bat is light and he may never hit a ton.

7. Blake Swihart – Boston Red Sox
8. Stryker Trahan – Arizona Diamondbacks

Both Swihart and Trahan have the raw potential to move up this list over the next year, but both also carry significant risk long term. Swihart is far more likely to remain at catcher where his strong arm and quickness behind the plate played well last summer. He has some potential with the bat and could become a force in the near term. Trahan’s profile is centered on his bat with scouts openly questioning his long term defensive projection.

9. Rob Brantly – Miami Marlins
10. Tommy Joseph – Philadelphia Phillies

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Brantly and Joseph don’t offer big upside, but they do offer some sense of certainty going forward. Both players are still rough around the edges defensively and may never rate better than fringe-average in that regard. Both also have pop in their bats and the potential to hit enough at the big league level to carry an everyday job.

Just Missed: Clint Coulter – Milwaukee Brewers, Michael Perez – Arizona Diamondbacks, Max Stassi – Oakland Athletics, Will Swanner – Colorado Rockies

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11 Responses to 2013 BPN Top 10 Catching Prospects

  1. AJ says:

    You know from my previous comments that I respect your opinion on this sorta stuff, but putting Hedges above any of the other 3 behind him is a little whacko, lol. Not only will Grandal block him, but even if he’s Yadier behind the plate, he’ll likely be Chris Iannetta beside it. I think the move to New York was a positive for d’Arnaud, as now he doesn’t have JP Arencibia ahead of him and he has a newly shortened fence. Even if his defense is behind Hedges, which it obviously is, I think the middle-of-the-order bat and clear path to a full time gig give him much, much more of an advantage. He’s crushing in spring and if the Mets were even close to be in contention, he’d be their Opening Day starter. If Montero was #1 last year despite his poor catching abilities, I don’t think there’s any doubt who should be #1 this year. Just my 2 cents.

    • AJ says:

      I still really enjoyed the read though, thank you.

    • Mark A. says:

      The presence of Grandal has no impact on Hedges’ ranking. Players are not ranked based on what’s in front of them on the organiational depth chart. They are ranked based on their own merits as a player.

      D’Arnaud, Zunino and Sanchez are all very good prospects, and at various points throughout the development of these rankings, all three were at the top of the list. In the end, I am a huge believer in Austin Hedges. I think his defensive value is going to be absolutely through the roof and I think you are selling his bat short. I project him as a star-level player in the end; a player that is considered the best in the game at his position, and that’s enough to rank atop my list.

      • AJ says:

        That’s fair, I guess. Although I don’t see how opportunity and/or path to the majors doesn’t factor into a player’s value. Had Jim Thome not been in Philly, Howard would have been up long before he was, and therefore would have been a seasoned vet by the time in reality that he took his first AB. But again, that’s fair and it’s not like I don’t view Hedges as a valuable piece. I just don’t see him getting to prove it unless it’s with a different organization and/or once Grandal is gone. I’m also not high on his bat, but that’s not my main point. Oh well, thanks for the response either way!

      • Mark A. says:

        I stand by my assertion that opportunity/path to MLB should have no bearing on a prospect ranking. My rankings — and frankly, the rankings of all the reputable prospect sources out there — are based on a players tools, abilities and projection, with no consideration of the players that may or may not stand in their way at the big league level.

      • AJ says:

        Yeah, maybe so. I get it, I just think opportunity plays just as big, if not bigger, a role in a player’s value than most of the other factors. I look at a guy who’s fully blocked from the majors as a prime candidate to get switched to a different position. Now a defensive catcher is a different story obviously, but who cares if a guy is the 3rd best 1B prospect in the game if he has Joey Votto in front of him? That kid is getting moved to 3B or RF. But like I said, I get it. But I, like many, use these kinds of lists for fantasy and I just have a completely different mindset. But thats not to say I’d rank Hedges 20th just become hes defense-first, but id certainly rank him outside my top 3 since he’ll probably be stuck in the minors until he’s a 27 year old rookie. Who knows though. Jist my thought process. I enjoyed the read regardless of my personal views.

  2. Joe says:

    Hi Mark,
    Enjoyed the write up and the list. I’m keeping a watchful eye on Alfaro. If the Rangers send him back to Hickory (as is being speculated at BA and BP) do you think he ends up spending another year in LoA, or does he get promoted to Myrtle somewhere along the line?

  3. coby76 says:

    Blake Swihart is the guy who could shoot up. He has the potential to be above average both at the plate and behind the plate. Also he even runs pretty well for his position. But I understand why you are conservative about him. He is pretty raw. In 2 or 3 years we should know who he really is.

  4. Are you going to publish a top 150 prospects list again this year?

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