2019 Midseason Prospect Rankings: Top 20 Catchers
The gauntlet has been thrown down, and the Pitcher List Dynasty Team has responded—and responded with vigor.
We’ve heard your calls for prospect rankings. That is why Adam Lawler any myself published our top 100 hitting and pitching prospect lists a week ago. We knew that wasn’t good enough, so now we’re going to go position by position and rank everybody:
|Top 100 Hitters||Top 20 First Baseman||Top 25 Shortstops|
|Top 100 Pitchers||Top 25 Second Baseman||Top 25 Outfield|
|Top 20 Catchers||Top 25 Third Baseman||Top 50 Outfield|
Let’s talk catchers.
Catcher is the oddest prospect group in baseball. Basically, most catchers who aren’t good enough defensively aren’t valuable at all in dynasty leagues. Very rarely is there a catching prospect who is so good with the bat that it doesn’t matter how good he is behind the plate. The last two were Kyle Schwarber and Bryce Harper. Usually, if a catching prospect isn’t good enough at catching, his bat isn’t good enough to be valuable at any other position. The only exception to that is possibly Sam Huff, who is not on this list because there is almost no chance he stays at catcher, but his power could still play at first.
That said, you’re not going to find many catchers who are great with the glove and not the bat. If a catching prospect is in this list, there is at least reason to believe that he will either hit for average or power, or both. There is a single speed option at catcher on this list—and that is the reason why he is so high. That is just so rare, the potential to have that in your lineup cannot be ignored.
Finally, unlike the other positions lists we will post in the coming days, there is only one sure thing on this page. Let’s get to him:
1. Adley Rutschman, BAL, Age: 21
To some, picking a prospect who hasn’t even played a single pro game as the best at his position in the minors might seem hasty. Rutschman has earned it. A national champion, a College World Series Most Outstanding Player, and a Golden Spikes Award winner, this kid has done everything you can do at the collegiate level. To me, he’s not just the top minor league catcher—he’s at least a step above everybody this list. A fantastic defender with good footwork and a great arm, in 2019 he built upon an already impressive offensive output:
|Oregon State (2019)||.427||.584||.772||16||69||36|
He’s the complete package. He has a fantastic hitting approach with power—the only thing he doesn’t do is steal bases. He reminds me of Buster Posey with the only difference being just a half a grade behind defensively. If the Orioles were any good, he could be in the majors by the end of 2020, but I think we’ll see him as Baltimore’s starting catcher out of camp in 2021.
2. Joey Bart, SF, Age: 22
Even though he’s got a year on Rutschman in the minors, I believe Joey Bart will also be in the majors at the start of 2021. He’s going to need a little more time defensively and with his approach. Right now, Bart is a free-swinging backstop who at times can look like he’s becoming more patient and at other times like he’s swinging out of his shoes. I believe he will find a balance and become one of those lumbering (6-3, 230) catchers who cracks them out for a few years before either the position becomes too taxing on his body or he splits time to lengthen his career. He’s currently struggling in High-A at the plate (.242/.287/.445), and it’s possible it continues the whole season and he begins 2020 still in San Jose. Let’s get one thing straight: He’s not Posey, but he is still quite good.
3. Keibert Ruiz, LAD, Age: 20
If Bart is all power, then Keibert Ruiz is the opposite. I’m not going to say that Ruiz has no power. That simply isn’t true. Having spent a whole calendar year in Double-A at just 20 years old (which is impressive for a catcher), we simply do not know how much power this young man has. We do know one thing, however: His contact skills are plus in general and bordering on elite for a catcher. This is the kind of guy who, if he reaches his potential, is a perennial .300 hitter with 15-20 home runs. He’s also small for the position, which is good for fantasy purposes. It means he doesn’t have to carry as much weight to man a position that already requires an insane demand on the body. That means he’ll likely be able to last longer behind the plate. He’s been incredibly unlucky so far in 2019, sporting a .259 BABIP, but it’s clear his approach has improved, as he’s reversed his BB/K ratio from 26:33 in 2018 to 27:18 so far this year.
4. Daulton Varsho, ARI, Age: 23
Daulton Varsho tops the list of catching prospects who I hope will succeed. There is just too much to like about him, and if he fulfills his potential, he will be the most fun catcher to watch. With a plus hit tool and plus speed, Varsho is a unique profile in today’s game. How rare is it? Only six catchers have recorded at least one season of 10-plus stolen bases since 2000. Varsho could be the seventh—in 20 years worth of baseball. Simply put, having a speedy catcher is something that would be in very high demand, especially one who could do it multiple times and approach 15 thefts. Varsho has that kind of profile. He swiped 19 bags in High-A in 2018 and already has 10 stolen bases in Double-A this year.
5. Sean Murphy, OAK, Age: 24
Whenever you read posts evaluating catching prospects, people often refer to being cautious because catchers take a long time to develop in the minors and have shortened primes/careers. Sean Murphy personifies these reservations. In his fourth year in the minor leagues, Murphy has generally been a plus hitter with respectable power. He’s going to stick at catcher, but he’s also almost 25 already. The chances Murphy catches at the big league level for more than five years are dwindling. The A’s seem pretty set with Josh Phegley this year, so Murphy will be nearly 26 before he debuts in the bigs unless he can force their hand. Slashing .324/.398/.459 helps. As does having a cannon for an arm.
6. Ronaldo Hernandez, TB, Age: 21
The question with Ronaldo Hernandez is: Does he have plus power? He certainly showed that potential with 21 dingers in Single-A as a 20-year-old in 2018. That same power has not been as prominent in High-A this season, as he’s slashing .250/.278/.390. Still, Hernandez has earned some credit, being an advanced hitter at each level in the low minors thus far. He’s likely to spend the rest of 2019 with the Stone Crabs. If he finds his power stroke again, he’ll likely earn a promotion and will be two years away from the bigs. If he doesn’t, he’s probably three years away. Unlike some of the other names on this list, Hernandez is a catcher only. He’s a borderline plus defender with probably the best arm on this list.
7. Bo Naylor, CLE, Age: 19
The reason Bo Naylor isn’t higher on this list is that right now he’s all projection. Naylor, nearly the youngest prospect on this list, has shown a tertiary ability to hit. The younger brother of a higher-profile prospect, Josh Naylor, Bo has a lower ceiling, but that doesn’t mean a lack of power. He’s shown his plus power potential as a teenager in Single-A with seven home runs so far in just 63 games. That is an impressive number for his age, not to mention his position. He’s also likely going to stay at catcher because of his plus arm and advanced footwork for his age. What does he need to work on? Contact, contact, contact. That will determine how good he will be at the highest level.
8. Luis Campusano, SD, Age: 20
I am confused as to why many sites do not include Campusano higher in their rankings. The kid can hit, and at 20 years old, he already very good behind the plate. His arm is a net positive. What’s not to like? Halfway through the High-A season, he’s slashing .318/.397/.500 with nine home runs and 29 extra-base hits in 70 games. It’s probably time to send him to Double-A and see what he can do against real pitching.
9. Will Smith, LAD, Age: 24
Yes, the Dodgers have two of the top 10 catching prospects. This will be a pretty solid backstop tandem in the next couple of years. How it will likely shake out is that once Ruiz gets the call, Smith will become an Austin Barnes type of utility man who can play multiple infield positions as well as catcher. Of course, this is assuming Smith can hit big league pitching. In his first cup of coffee, he’s been good enough, slashing .269/.345/654 with three homers in nine games. It’s possible his hit tool improves to be just shy of Ruiz’s at, say, a 60, but that is if everything goes right.
10. Anthony Seigler, NYY, Age: 20
Just turning 20 in June, Anthony Seigler drew a lot of bad comparisons to Yankees great Jorge Posada. These are not very well founded. Just because they are both switch-hitting catchers with contracts from the Yankees doesn’t mean they are similar. It’s unlikely Seigler reaches the 30-homer potential that Posada had, but the ability to hit .270 is definitely there. The rest of this season is crucial for Seigler, as he will need to start showing some signs of power to move through the Yankees organization.
11. Shea Langliers, ATL, Age: 21
I am torn on Shea Langliers. On the one hand, he has performed at a high level in college, especially during the College World Series. He boasts a plus arm, plus fielding, and the potential for plus power. On the other hand, his approach needs a lot of work (31% strikeout rate in Single-A). It would be a shame to see all of the skills he does have go to waste if he isn’t a good enough hitter. We’re a few years away from making this determination, but while starring at Baylor, he was far from a sure thing. I thought it was a reach for Atlanta to pick him at No. 9 in this year’s draft. He’s more of a midround pick to me. Of course, if that walk rate goes down and the dingers go up in the next year, I’ll be quick to say I was wrong.
12. Zack Collins, CWS, Age: 24
If there is one thing we know about Zack Collins, it’s that he can hit the ball very far. Another thing we know about Collins is that he probably isn’t a catcher. I wish he was. Over his three-plus years in the minors, he’s developed a plate discipline that is in the top five of this list. Unfortunately, he just can’t field the position. Unless Collins taps into some underlying athleticism in the near future, he’s a DH/1B prospect, where his power is no longer plus and his approach is a net negative. It’s unfortunate because that 22.00 AB/HR rate would be great coming from a catcher spot.
13. Tyler Stephenson, CIN, Age: 22
Offensively, Tyler Stephenson looks like a less powerful Collins. Here lies the rub. This is the part of the list where guys need to develop an entirely new skill to be useful in your dynasty league. With Collins, it needs to be either defending the position or better contact. With Stephenson, it’s more consistent contact or more power. He will be the Reds’ starting catcher someday. He’s got the arm and the defense. What is keeping him from being worth a pick in your prospect draft is that he needs to decide what kind of hitter he becomes: one who sacrifices average for power or one whose goal is to get on base. Right now he’s neither but has the potential to be either one, which is shown by his .258/.342/.383 career MiLB slash line.
14. Andrew Knizer, STL, Age: 24
To get a good sense of who Andrew Knizer is, I want you to imagine Ruiz and then take off about a half of a grade off everything except power—then make him four years older. What I’m saying is that Knizer is a fine bat with decent power, and he’s average defensively. That’s a great profile if you’re 20. If you’re 24, it’s still a decent one. The good thing about the Cardinals backstop is we know that he’ll likely hit for average (career .304 minor league batting average over 295 games). How much he works the count will help enhance his value. He’s just been called up by St. Louis, and it’s worth giving him a look if you’re short on catcher. With the way home runs are accumulating in the majors these days, the new ball could give him an extra boost to go along with his solid approach.
15. Francisco Alvarez, NYM, Age: 17
It’s possible that Francisco Alvarez‘s bat is better than we thought—and we’re seeing evidence of that in Rookie-A. In limited action, Alvarez has slashed .325/.413/.575 with a pair of home runs. This youngster has a good arm and good footwork that he can build off of in low levels of the minors the next few years. We’ll know more about hos talented he is in the coming months, but right now, I’d take a chance on him.
16. Miguel Amaya, CHC, Age: 20
The thing about Miguel Amaya is that he has no future as anything else but a catcher given his arm and fielding skill already. The problem is that he has had difficulty with more advanced pitching than Single-A. Still, there is potential for a borderline plus bat and better than average power if he puts it together. That’s the difference between this list and a normal prospect list: There is no use for a defensive catcher who is subpar with the bat. There is use for one in real baseball.
17. William Contreras, ATL, Age: 21
Contreras has the same problem as Amaya: He’s all defense right now. He’s young, so there is a lot of room for his bat to mature, but right now, there isn’t much to be excited about. At 21, Contreras still has three or so years to make good with the bat, but it’s not there yet. Also, there isn’t much power potential here.
18. Austin Allen, SD, 25
I’m not going to say that San Diego is loaded at catcher. The truth is that the organization has good catching prospects, but none of them are elite. That said, I like Austin Allen. I’m a little concerned with his height (6’4″) and how much that can limit you defensively unless you are a freak. Allen is not a freak. He’s slightly below average defensively with probably an average arm, but like Campusano, he can hit—or at least he’s shown he can in the minors. His career marks of .291/.352/.475 in 400-plus minor league games—most of which came Double-A and higher—are a good sign. He’s also got some pop, having hit 22 homers in each of 2017 and 2018.
19. Abrahan Gutierrez, PHI, Age: 19
Watch for this name this coming offseason in catcher prospect lists. Abrahan Gutierrez is going to turn some heads with his consistent approach and power potential. He’s a big guy for just being 19 (6’2″, 214 lbs.), so if he can keep his body right, there is a solid projection for him with a good bat, good power. He’s not spectacular at anything, but there is room for him to tap into his size.
20. Alex Jackson, ATL, Age: 23
This one is simple: Alex Jackson is on this list because he’s the only catcher in professional baseball with more power than Rutschman, Bart, or Collins. He’s got a great arm too, but that’s about it.
(Photo by John Peterson/Icon Sportswire)