Promising class of catchers for '09
High schoolers figure prominently in group of backstops
Talk to any team's front office and there's bound to be talk about wanting to improve the organization. That means middle infielders, center fielders and, most importantly, catching.
Every team always needs more help behind the plate. As a result, just about every year catchers get over-drafted because of the scarcity of talent at the position.
In an ideal world, there would be plenty of advanced college backstops to choose from, guys a team could be certain would stay behind the plate. Unfortunately, that isn't the case in the Class of 2009. While there are a few college catchers, one of the strengths of the overall class is in the fairly large group of high school catchers. That can be a very positive thing.
"It's nice to see a bunch of high school kids that are getting better behind the plate," one scouting director said. "Some are even calling their own game. Some get hurt along the way and some won't stay behind the plate, but it is nice to see."
There are plenty of cautionary tales regarding high school catching and the Draft, of course. For every Joe Mauer (and there's not a player of that caliber in this group), there's a Ryan Christianson (11th pick overall 1999, zero big league games), Scott Heard (25th pick in 2000, never played above Class A Advanced ball), Bill Henderson (20th, out of baseball after the 1989 season), or even a guy like Tyler Houston (No. 2 overall in 1989), who did play 700 games in the big leagues, but most of them not behind the plate.
"That's a good position for scouts to disagree on," the scouting director said. "You'll historically see guys all over the board with high school catchers. A lot of mistakes have been made behind the plate."
MLB.com will offer live coverage and analysis of the entire First-Year Player Draft on June 9-11, on MLB.com/Live, where host Vinny Micucci will be joined by MLB.com Draft expert Jonathan Mayo and Major League Scouting Bureau director Frank Marcos. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET on June 9, noon on June 10 and 11:30 a.m. on June 11. Here are some catchers who's names you will hear about when you tune in.
Luke Bailey, Troup H.S., Ga.: Bailey was on his way to being the top high school catcher to go on Draft day until he went down with a right elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. Even with the surgery, there's a chance he'll go pretty high, with a Major League team deciding to bring the solid defender with power potential into the fold and letting him rehab in house, kind of like what the Angels did with Nick Adenhart in 2004.
Steven Baron, Ferguson H.S., Fla.: It's quite possible that Baron has the greatest all-around defensive package among all catchers in the class. He's got a strong arm, soft hands and moves like a shortstop behind the plate in terms of his agility. His offensive game lags behind his defense, but he's got bat speed and power potential to work with.
Cameron Garfield: A solid all-around defender, Garfield did not help his overall Draft status with a mediocre senior year. He was hindered by an ankle injury that kept him limited to DH duties for a while. With his season over, Garfield was impressing teams in workouts late in the spring, showing a strong arm and good agility behind the plate. He's got offensive potential, but does tend to overswing at times. The team that believes Garfield will hit is the one that will take him pretty early.
Tommy Joseph, Horizon H.S., Ariz.: There aren't many questions about the bat with Joseph. He can flat out punish the baseball, with power to spare. The questions come up around his defensive game. While Joseph does have a good arm, he lacks agility behind the plate and he hasn't caught all that much. His bat should play anywhere, but he'll go higher to a team that believes he can catch.
Wil Myers, Wesleyan Christian Academy, NC: Myers has played a number of positions in high school, but most feel his arm and agility would play very well behind the plate. He's an extremely good athlete who runs well and he's got some serious bat speed and hand strength at the plate, which should mean power down the road. Even if Myers has to move to another position, his offensive skill set is attractive enough for him to go off the board early.
Austin Maddox, Eagle's View Academy, Fla.: Maddox possesses two major tools -- raw power and a strong arm, maybe the best in the class. He can put on a display in batting practice with his power and he's been clocked in the mid-90s mph as a pitcher. He's very big and there's some concern that he won't be able to stay behind the plate, with a move to first in his future.
Josh Phegley, Indiana U.: A semifinalist for the Johnny Bench Award, given to the top college catcher each year, Phegley is more bat than anything else. He's hit for average and power over the past couple of years at Indiana, but without great bat speed, making some wonder if his success will translate to the Majors. Of more concern are his defensive skills. He does have a strong arm and a very good makeup, so if a team feels he can develop behind the plate, they'll be more than happy to take his bat.
Tony Sanchez, Boston College: Also a Bench semifinalist, Sanchez could be the first backstop to be drafted, and almost certainly will be the first college catcher to go off the board. He's a solid catch-and-throw type with solid offensive skills as well, making him an intriguing all-around package.
Max Stassi, Yuba City H.S., Calif.: A right shoulder injury forced Stassi out of catching action for a while, but he has shown scouts lately that his arm is fine. He comes from a baseball family and is a natural leader behind the plate. Stassi can hit, too, and while he's not a big power guy, he does have some strength. His skills, plus his instincts, could add up to him being the first prep catcher to be taken on Draft day.
Andrew Susac, Jesuit H.S., Calif.: Northern California has been a good place to see catching, with Stassi and Susac both in the area. Stassi gets more ink and will probably go higher, but Susac is no slouch. He's got some serious power at the plate and the potential to be a pretty good defender down the line.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.