05/19/08 10:00 AM ET
Catching crop in Draft is high quality
Teams see better talent level among backstops
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
When all is said and done, some of the catchers taken in this year's First-Year Player Draft will make it to the big leagues at that position. Others will switch positions and their bats will carry them to the Majors. Others still won't make it at all. And there are a few interesting choices for teams to consider almost immediately.
"There is catching in the Draft, kind of sprinkled throughout," one scouting director said. "Probably a little more than there has been [in the past]. It's not bad at the top, but there isn't any depth."
"There are some guys you'd consider in the first three to five rounds, but it falls off," another scouting director said. "There's a real good high school guy and real good college guy right out of the chute; that's sort of unique. Maybe that's where it's better than it's been."
Regardless of where the strength lies, some catching invariably gets overdrafted. Teams believe it's a void that does have to be filled and especially if there's a backstop who can hit a little, he may go a few spots earlier than if he were, say, a first baseman.
"That's a reality; some catchers have to move up," the second scouting director said. "There's always a little push on the left-handed pitchers and catchers of the world because the reality is the uniqueness of the position."
Regardless of when they are drafted, every team hopes that somewhere along the 50-round ride, a Major League backstop will come their way. With that in mind, here's a look at the best catchers in the 2008 Draft class.
Jason Castro, Stanford: Castro put himself on the map last summer with a strong offensive showing in Cape Cod. An arm issue along with being on a team with other top-flight catchers meant he didn't see much time behind the plate, but not only has the lefty-swinging Castro continued to rake during his junior season, he's answered questions about his arm health, and while his overall skills behind the plate aren't stellar, few question his ability to stay there at the next level. A semifinalist for the Johnny Bench Award, he's been among Stanford's leaders in nearly every offensive category.
Tim Federowicz, North Carolina: Also a Johnny Bench Award semifinalist, the Tar Heels backstop hasn't received as much attention as some of the other college catchers. He's had a solid season for the highly ranked UNC club, and having served as a closer in the past, his best defensive tool is his arm strength. He's shown some power, but it hasn't been there much in his junior season.
Jake Jefferies, UC Davis: You guessed it. Jefferies, too, is a Bench Award semifinalist. He's moved up draft charts for a few reasons: He hits left-handed, he's hovered around .400 most of the year and he almost never strikes out. He's more of a contact guy than a power guy and while he's fine behind the plate, his arm strength -- or lack thereof -- is what keeps him a tick behind the top backstops on this list.
Taylor Hightower, Cartersville HS, Ga.: An AFLAC All-America selection last summer, Hightower gets high praise for his defensive skills. He's a good athlete who moves very well behind the plate and he's got a strong and accurate arm. He's shown the ability to hit from both sides of the plate, though that's been the more inconsistent part of his game. The team that thinks the most of his offensive potential will likely grab him first and see just how strong his commitment to Ole Miss is.
Brett Lawrie, Brookswood SS, Langley, BC: Perhaps the most athletic player on this list, it's still up in the air whether he truly belongs at this position. He hasn't done a whole lot of catching -- scouts are getting more looks at him as Draft day approaches -- so his overall defensive skills are a little behind. He's got a plus arm that he'll get to show off more as he improves on things like footwork and speeding up his release. There are some, however, who don't think he can catch long-term and would rather see him at third or perhaps even second. Wherever he is, his bat will likely play just fine.
Brandon Miller, Woodward Academy, Tyrone, Ga.: Another athletic catcher, Miller is a Georgia Tech recruit. The strong prepster has played at high levels of competition, including World Wood Bat tournaments. He's been a standout in the elite East Cobb program as well. He's got a good arm behind the plate and some legitimate power potential to boot.
Adrian Nieto, American Heritage HS, Plantation, Fla.: An AFLAC All-America and part of an incredibly well-stocked high school team, Nieto has gotten plenty of looks from scouts over the past year. He's had what some have considered to be a down year, but he's still considered to be one of the top prep catchers in the class. He's got some hitting ability with a little pop and when healthy (he had an elbow issue last year), his arm is a plus tool. Even with a subpar performance, there will be teams that believe they can work with all he has to offer behind the plate.
Petey Paramore, Arizona State: While he's fallen a touch behind the top couple of college backstops, it's more because of their good performances than anything negative he's done. Paramore is a switch-hitter who's shown outstanding plate discipline throughout his career and some acumen in hitting for average. He does not have much power and that may be one element that has him behind guys like Castro and Buster Posey. He is, however, an outstanding defensive catcher and he should hit enough to be a good big leaguer in fairly short order. He's also a Johnny Bench Award semifinalist.
Buster Posey, Florida State: Posey is not only a Bench Award semifinalist, he also received the same honor for the Dick Howser Trophy, the award given to college's top player. The one-time shortstop has improved tremendously behind the plate and there aren't even whispers of him having to move. Also FSU's closer, he's always had good arm strength. What's really moved him up to the top of this group -- where he's even being considered for the first overall pick in the Draft -- is the offensive year he's had as a junior. He's been among the NCAA leaders in just about every offensive category, hitting for a crazy average and showing more power than he had in previous seasons. Even if he doesn't go first overall, he's moved himself into serious consideration as a top-10 selection.
Kyle Skipworth, Patriot HS, Riverside, Calif.: If Posey's the top college backstop, Skipworth heads the prep class. There hasn't been any doubt about his bat as most believe his power potential and ability to hit to all fields from the left side would play just about anywhere. He's always had arm strength, but other facets of his defensive game haven't always been graded as favorably. He's answered most of those questions and most see him as a legitimate all-around catcher who should also hear his name called in the top part of the first round.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.