Rolling right along, Minor League Ball continues its position by position look at prospects ready for their MLB debuts in the coming 2019 season. Today we focus our attention on the catching position. But before we begin, get caught up on those already completed:
Catcher, as most of us know, is such a hard position to project. Some catchers are defense first and can’t hit a lick, while others are all bat. It doesn’t seem that there are many impact catchers ready to make a difference in 2019, but here are a few that have our attention (as always, feel free to add more in the comments).
Murphy is the 24-year-old backstop out of Wright State that the A’s nabbed in the third round of the 2016 MLB Draft. Just three short years later, it looks like they have a solid backstop on their hands.
Murphy entered 2018 as our own John Sickels’ No. 10 prospect on the A’s, with a very positive B- grade. Here’s why:
Age 23, third round pick in 2016 from Wright State University; hit .297/.343/.527 in 165 at-bats in High-A but slumped to .209/.288/.309 in 191 at-bats in Double-A; excellent throwing arm and a reliable defensive catcher, will get to majors on his defense alone but future will depend on the bat; flashes above-average power and will draw walks but uncertain what his batting average will look like against the best pitching, has never hit particularly well with wood; some caution with the hitting is advisable but overall I like him. ETA 2019.
So here’s the skinny. Sources, like Baseball America for example, have his arm labeled at an 80. He’s thrown out over 35 percent of base runners in his career and has allowed just 14 passed balls in 182 games behind the plate. And whatever ailed him in 2017 in the Texas League, he fixed in 2018.
Murphy slashed .288/.358/.498 with a modest 16.3 strikeout percentage and a very reasonable 8.0 walk percentage. He still hits way too many ground balls, but it seems like the power is there and he could be a 10 home run catcher at the next level. He has just eight at bats over Double-A, but with Josh Phegley the only catcher on the current 40-man roster, the job is Murphy’s for the taking.
Collins was one of the best power bats in the 2016 MLB Draft, and he homered in the College World Series almost immediately after the White Sox snagged him in the first round to prove it. He’s been a work in progress ever since but is certainly ready for a taste of the bigs on a restructuring White Sox team.
The big — he’s listed at 6’3” and 220 and looks every bit of it — left-handed hitting, right-handed throwing backstop has two tremendous positives. He has monster power that goes to all fields and he has incredible plate patience that pays off in walks and in waiting for the right pitch to drive. Last season he may have struck out 158 times, but he walked 101, 24 better than his 2017 career-best. Despite the contact concerns, Collins still got on base at a .382 lick, so there is definitely value there.
Along with perfecting his contact skills, Collins, as most big catchers do, is still honing his craft behind the plate. His footwork is much improved and he has a cannon, albeit somewhat inconsistent. If he continues to work on framing his pitches, he could very well be a viable backstop for years to come.
Ruiz is a bit of a stretch, as almost every publication feels his ETA is 2020. That’s fair, considering the switch-hitting catcher is still a mere 20 years of age. But with only Austin Barnes on the 25-man and THE Kyle Farmer and Rocky Gale as the backups on the 40-man, well, why not?
The Dodgers have never been shy about playing their young prospects, and if injuries strike, Ruiz could at least get a quick cup of coffee in 2019. Here’s why Ruiz is so special. The Dodgers inked him as a defensive-first catcher… and he has been a solid hitter with nice speed. And the defense hasn’t suffered at all.
You can look at the fact that Ruiz has just 23 home runs in his career, but 18 have come since his July 2017 promotion to the California League. He has already shown an ability to make contact, and now his power is clearly developing. His batting average struggled this season, but he did show the most power of his young career as a 20-year-old in Double-A. He’s only thrown out 26 percent of base runners in his career, but he doesn’t make many mistakes with solid blocking skills and good mechanics behind the plate.
The Dodgers could wait until 2020, but without many options at the big league level, we may see Ruiz this year.
Another to watch:
Taylor Gushue, Washington Nationals: There are better catching prospects on the Nationals. Raudy Read will likely get the first shot and Tres Barrera may be a quick mover, but Gushue is ready for his big league debut to at the very least, see what he can do. The power-first catcher is now 24-years-old and has been working in the Dominican Summer League so it’s safe to assume his MLB debut is close.
Chadwick Tromp, Cincinnati Reds: I don’t know anything about him, his stats aren’t very good, but the 23-year-old backstop has a fun name (keep your politics out of this please) and that is worth an MLB debut alone.
Now that first and second base are in the books, it is time to turn our attention to the hot corner. We continue our look at possible impact prospects for the 2017 season, with five third basemen who may be ready for The Show in 2017.
Once again, this isn’t a top prospects list. You won’t see names like Rafael Devers, Ke’Bryan Hayes or even Valdimir Guerrero, Jr. because they are far away from their big league promotions. You won’t seem Austin Riley, whose second half surge that led Rome to their SAL title has him fast-rising amongst baseball’s best third base prospects. This is not a rankings of any sorts, it is merely five prospects who could see enough big league time in 2017 that they impact their team’s play.
Thus far in our look back at the Almost Mock Draft from May, we have taken a look at some of how the hot bats have sizzled — or fizzled — since being selected this past June. Today we turn our attention to one of the top pitchers taken in this year’s MLB Draft.
Yoan Moncada. Lucas Giolito. Alex Bregman. Jose Berrios. Orlando Arcia — just to name a few. The top-30 prospects’ names roll right off the tongue. Quite a few have already been yo-yoed between the majors and minors this year, and nearly every one of them is on someone’s radar, whether as a potential trade target or on the brink of their highly-anticipated debut.
I have been trying to stay afloat with the goings on in Nashville the past few days. There have been some good trades, and some head scratchers and now the MLB Winter Meetings are coming to an end. Let’s take a look at some last impressions we haven’t covered yet at good ol’ Wayniac Nation.
Welcome to December, folks. December is a big month for sports geeks like you and I. This coming weekend kicks off the winter meetings in baseball. The NFL is heading down its home stretch and the playoff race is currently closer than ever. It’s also championship week in college football. And the NBA and NHL somehow steal ratings here and there in between!
It’s a new era in Braves Country. Last week, the Atlanta Braves fired General Manager Frank Wren. Wren, who was handed the reigns from legendary Braves GM John Shuerholz in 2007, was a man known for building the minor league system. Wren was a man who stuck to his young guns and homegrown talent in hopes of winning championships, more lovingly known down here as The Braves Way, but that ultimately may have been his demise.
Baseball is almost here, folks. We are only 12 short days away from the first pitch Down Under, mates. It’s getting real exciting, too. If Spring Training had any sort of meaning behind it, we would have an exciting match-up between the Cleveland Indians versus the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series. As it stands, Spring Training means nothing, and that’s precisely why I’m here telling you exactlyhow this season is going to play out.
It has to be tough to be an Astros’ fan. The last time they had a winning record was in 2008 when Usher unleashed Justin Bieber upon the world (so, we have all been struggling ‘Stros fans). They have lost over 100 games for three seasons in a row. They got booted, not only from their division, but the whole damn National League. They can’t even get poor Craig Biggo into the Hall of Fame.
This season doesn’t look like things will be getting any better as GM Jeff Luhnow has this team prepping for the future. I know a lot about sports, an unhealthy amount, so for me to tell you that there are only four people I in this line-up speaks volumes. It’s not so much who will be on the 2014 Astros’ roster, but who is waiting in the wings as the Astros have what several experts are calling the top farm system in baseball with elite prospects at every position. The simple fact that I know more about Jonathan Singleton (1B), 2013 number one overall pick Mark Appel, and one of the top prospects in the game, shortstop Carlos Correa than most of their starters shows that the Astros will be prime contenders… in two years.
Until then, Houston will have to watch second baseman Jose Altuve and All-Star catcher Jason Castro lead a cast of no names to the basement of the West. I guess newly acquired Scott Feldman, who has gone 27-35 since his 17-8 2009 breakout, is the ace of this staff. That’s mainly because Jarred Cosart, Brett Oberholtzer, and Brad Peacock have appeared in 44 major league games combined. Chad Qualls, more famous for falling off of pitchers mounds than striking people out, will be the teams closer. Be patient Astros fans. Good times are ahead… way ahead.
Projected 2014 finish: 61-101. For ticket information check out Ticket Monster.
4. The Seattle Mariners
(Covers.com has the O/U at 80 while FanGraphs has them finishing 83-79)
I am not a bitter Yankees’ fan. I loved Robbie Cano. I think he was a more of a made things look easy kind-of-guy rather than the lackadaisical, no effort type-of-guy that everyone seems to suddenly be bashing him about. That being said, $240 million is absolutely absurd. He couldn’t lead a Yankees team to the playoffs last season that had very similar talent to what this Mariners’ team has this season and he’s not going to do it this year, either.
The revamped offense seems to have given up on Jesus Montero, the colossal bust acquired from the Yankees two years ago. His batting average has lowered, his home runs have dropped, and he appears to have eaten former Mariner Edgar Martinez. They brought in outfielder Corey Hart and DH Logan Morrison along with Cano to try and revitalize this offense. A lot will depend on the continued growth of 1B Justin Smoak and 3B Kyle Seager. Both have developed some nice pop but it would be nice if they could hit their weight and they would become All-Stars if the could hit Montero’s weight.
The pitching staff is anchored by Felix Hernandez who is simply one of the best the game has to offer. It’s scary to think what his numbers would be if he pitched on a contender. The rest of the rotation has already taken a big hit this spring. Hisashi Iwakuma is dealing with a finger issue and the Ms hope to have him back by May. Top prospect Taijuan Walker has a bum right shoulder and he is also doubtful until May. King Felix and the four castoffs they have attempting to hold the team together until both return may put them out of contention early.
Fernando Rodney leads an uninspiring bullpen. He returned to reality last season after his superhuman 2012 and that reality is that he is shaky closer. Should Rodney fail, the Ms will have to turn to Tom Wilhelmsen who struggled big time last season. Things are as bleak as the weather in Seattle this season.
Projected 2014 finish: 79-83. For ticket information click here.
3. The Anaheim Angels of Los Angeles that were once California
(Covers.com has the O/U at 84.5 while FanGraphs has them finishing 85-77)
The Angels are a prime example of how money does NOT buy championships. Mike Scioscia built this team on a small ball philosophy and when the big brass brought in sluggers, their success changed. It appears that they bought some broken down pieces on offense and their once vaunted pitching staff is half of what it used to be.
Mike Trout is the best player in baseball, folks, and he is only 22. We as baseball fans are very lucky to watch Trout in the AL and Harper in the NL taking over their leagues. It is the Larry Bird and Magic Johnson of the MLB. What is also undeniable is how terribly awful Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton played last season. I know, they both suffered through injuries, but the reality is these guys are getting up there in age and have a lot of mileage on them. A bounce back from these two highly paid superstars is the only way the Angels can return to the playoffs for the first time in 4 years. Pujols unfortunately is on the wrong side of 30 and dealing with a torn plantar fascia which is never easy to come back from. The entire line-up is getting older and the addition of 41-year old Raul Ibanez to replace the departed 28-year old Mark Trumbo may not be enough.
The pitching staff is a question mark. Only James Shields and Justin Verlander have thrown more pitches than CJ Wilson has over the last two seasons. It may catch up to him as he has always had a high WHIP and is entering his mid-30s. Jered Weaver was once a perennial Cy Young candidate, however both his strikeout rate and velocity have been in a steady decline for a few years now. Rounding out the rotation is a new and relatively young staff. What effect Hector Santiago, Tyler Skaggs, and Garrett Richards can have in turning around this team is yet to be seen.
Ernesto Frieri is an enigma in the pen. He’s a bit like Rick “The Wild Thing” Vaughn. He is either going to strike you out or the ball his going to leave every park but Yellowstone. This is never a good sign for a long-term answer at closer.
Projected 2014 finish: 83-79. For ticket information click here.
2. The Texas Rangers
(Covers.com has the O/U at 86.5 while FanGraphs has them finishing 84-78)
Ron Washington is the winningest coach in Rangers history and will always have this team competing. They could wind-up the last Wild Card spot if it weren’t for my most outrageous prediction yet (which hasn’t been made, so stay tuned!) They made some big changes for the better this past offseason and like Chuck Norris’s beard, it makes them stronger.
Shin-Soo Choo was brought in from Cincinnati and instantly makes the offense more potent. The guy does everything well but most importantly knows how to get on base. That will be huge with fellow Ranger newbie Prince Fielder waiting in the hole. The veggie burrito eating monmouth is built for the home run-frienldy confines of The Ballpark at Arlington (I don’t believe in corporate name changes to stadiums, so back off Globe Life) and alongside Adrian Beltre and Alex Rios form a pretty sexy heart of the line-up. Ian Kinsler was sent to Detroit for Fielder which makes room for he prospect we have all been waiting on: Jurickson Profar. He will have his chance to prove his worth with no real threat on the roster.
The pitching staff is a bit iffy, but if you haven’t noticed, that appears to be the theme in the AL West. Yu Darvish is the clear cut ace. The Rangers really need Matt Harrison and Derek Holland to return to full health because it gives them a very formidable front end of the rotation. Joe Saunders and Tommy Hanson will be forced into action without their services and that’s not good for anyone.
Neftali Feliz is officially the closer… again… I think. He wants to be a starter but because of his mechanical flaws, the Rangers feel he is more suited for the bullpen. Well, that doesn’t make much sense, now does it? Should he stumble the Rangers are actually in good shape as they have Joakim Soria and Tanner Schepps waiting in the pen.
Projected 2014 finish: 90-72. For ticket information click here.
1. The Oakland Athletics
(Covers.com has the O/U at 86.6 while FanGraphs has them finishing 84-78)
The A’s are geared and ready for another run like the early 90s. They don’t have the power or swag that the Bash Brothers had but the back-to-back AL West Champs have all the goods to keep the title run going for at least another season.
The A’s return the same line-up that has been the best of the West. Josh Reddick needs to bounce back from an injury plagued 2013 and become the power surge in the middle of the line-up he was in 2012 when the A’s nabbed him from the Red Sox. Yoenis Cespedes must continue to adjust to pitchers as they have clearly begun to figure him out. He has all the tools and raw talent to take the next step, the question remains on when he will do it. Jed Lowrie is still the unsung leader of this offense while Josh Donaldson quietly continues his rise as one of the best third basemen in baseball.
The loss of last year’s ace Bartolo Colon should not be a problem for this young staff as their rotation gives them the edge in this division. Jarrod Parkermust now become the leader of this staff and at 25 he should be ready to shine. The addition of Scott Kazmir brings some veteran leadership to the young staff, although a history of injuries along with it. I still feel like even at age 30 we are waiting for that one amazing season from Kazmir, but those expectations may be a result of too much hype early in his career. Sonny Gray, Dan Straily, and AJ Griffin round out a staff that is growing into one of the most solid rotations in the league.
The A’s let Grant Balfour walk and brought in Jim Johnson as their new closer. It will be interesting to see how he pans out. He amassed 101 saves over the last 2 years in Baltimore, however, he walked a ton of batters and blew a lot of saves that the O’s potent offense frequently bailed him out of losing. Should he struggle, the A’s are safe with possibly the best bullpen in the AL featuring Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook, and Luke Gregerson.
Projected 2014 finish: 95-67, AL West Champs. For ticket information click here.