Two catchers could go in first round
Clement, Teagarden rated top backstops in draft
There's two and then "who?" when it comes to fleshing out the catching crop for the 2005 First-Year Player Draft.
The two are Southern California's Jeff Clement and Texas' Taylor Teagarden, who are expected to go no later than midway through the first round of the June 7 draft. Clement, some experts believe, may even sneak into the coveted top spot, held this year by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
There have been several catchers chosen with the top pick overall, starting with Steve Chilcott in 1966 -- taken by the Mets over Reggie Jackson, who was then selected by the A's -- and continuing with Mike Ivie by the Padres in 1970, Danny Goodwin by the White Sox in 1971 and again by the Angles in 1975, B.J. Surhoff by the Brewers in 1985 and Joe Mauer by the Twins in 2001.
Clement was drafted in the 12th round by the Twins out of high school while Teagarden was tabbed by the Cubs in the 22nd round before opting for the University of Texas. Of course, getting drafted after the first round, sometimes long after the first round, isn't a bad thing either. Just look at Mike Piazza. He was chosen in the 62nd round by the Dodgers in 1988 and went on to become the greatest hitting catcher in the game.
So is there anyone in this year's draft who will challenge Piazza, Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk, Yogi Berra or some of the game's other great backstops? Here's a look at some of the candidates.
Jeff Clement, USC: His booming left-handed bat makes Clement a valuable commodity, perhaps valuable enough to be drafted No. 1 overall. He hits them long, far and often and isn't bad behind the plate, either -- though his receiving skills aren't quite to the level of Teagarden's. There is already some talk that Clement will be moved to first base because his catching skills may not be suited for the big leagues. The best example of leaving well enough alone, however, is Piazza, who has made a terrific living as an average catcher.
Taylor Teagarden, Texas: That Scott Boras will be his agent garners as much attention as his ability on the field. Teagarden, however, says he's not worried and doesn't anticipate any problems signing. He is the best defensive catcher in the draft and could probably be ready to handle a big-league staff before long. Offensively, however, he isn't as accomplished as Clement and that may hold him back.
Brandon Snyder, Westfield H.S. (Va.): The kid is also an excellent shortstop, which is where he could wind up playing if pro scouts aren't enamored enough with his receiving skills. He's committed to Louisiana State, but if he goes somewhere in the second round, as expected, it's likely he'll sign and finally choose a position. He's spent the bulk of the season behind the plate and has shown the skills to be a good backstop. The fact that the draft is thin this season when it comes to catchers should work in his favor.
Jonathon Egan, Cross Creek H.S. (Ga.): A better than average bat and defensive skills as well as a strong throwing arm have Egan rated reasonably high on everyone's board. A projected solid second-round pick, Egan was selected to play in the prestigious All-American Baseball Game next month in Albuquerque. He is committed to the University of Georgia, but much like Snyder, it will take a big tumble down the board in order for him to honor that commitment.
Matt Liuzza, Louisiana State: A solid postseason performer, Liuzza's stock has risen over the past year. He isn't expected to go earlier than midway through the second round, but he has shown better-than-average defensive skills and his work at the plate has come a long way since his freshman season.
Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.