There will be a lot of change between now and the draft (June 4-6) but it is less than 5 months away now. I thought I’d crib a baker’s dozen of likely suspects and muse a bit on how that pertains to the Giants. As the HS and college seasons play out names will be added and dropped, this is extremely preliminary. My ranking order should be taken with a barrel of salt.
The Giants appear to be implementing a build up the middle strategy with position players, concentrating on Center Fielders, Shortstops and Catchers in the recent drafts. Shortstop is the most difficult position from a scarcity point of view, and always a concern with the Giants. I decided to move from one of our weaknesses to one of our relative strengths: Catcher.
(Mistakes are all mine; corrections, omissions and the like are all encouraged.)
Giants currently toiling at C:
AA: Tommy Joseph, Alex Burg
SJ: Andrew Susac, Jeff Arnold
AGA: Mike Murray, Dan Burkhart, Joe Staley
SK: Eric Sim
50-Game: Drew Stiner
National recognition: Joseph, Susac and Sanchez are all on most top 10 lists. I expect them to rocket into the consensus top 10 catchers in MLB and onto top 100 lists as well.
Don’t quote me on the depth chart, I have the big names correct and then there is some fill in. I have a theory that the BrainTrust is huge on Hector Sanchez and is waiting for him to hit his way onto the 25. That is the only reason I can see for not picking up a backup catcher with a hit tool after last year’s fiasco. One of Whiteside or Stewart will most likely begin in AAA, maybe both eventually if Sanchez does his thing. Its not going to be clear anytime soon, this is a pretty muddled situation complicated by Belt/Pill/Huff as well. It begins with the number of games Posey will catch, and subsequent moves to 1B. That question also has repercussions on the org structure.
The Giants have very good catching talent now, the result of having Andrew Susac drop for injury concerns and Tommy Joseph take a nice step forward with his defense as well as hitting in High-A. This begs the question, should they continue to look at more catchers in this years draft? The strategy is two-fold: first, you can never have enough depth, and second, you can always move a talented bat to the corners. To go into a dark pessimistic future, picture Hector Sanchez being Borked, Susac’s injuries not working out and Tommy Joseph unable to hit advanced pitching in the Eastern. OK, that’s pretty dark, come on back to the light. If Susac or Joseph work out, Posey can move away from catcher eventually. If both of them turn out, you can move somebody to LF. So just because things are great in Giant catcher-land doesn’t mean they should take their foot off the gas, necessarily.
Also, Johnny Monell looks like he could carve out a backup career, and now that I know Alex Burg isn’t an Aussie and just went over there to drink beer, eat barbe and rake HRs and blondes, he’s up there on the sleeper list. So beyond the top 3 there is some potential. And that ties into “where do we put all these guys?” Organizational depth and getting all these guys playing time is a pretty big puzzle right now.
Top 3 Catcher Prospects:
Mike Zunino, Stryker Trahan, Josh Elander
And 10 more for a Baker’s Dozen:
Alex Bregman, Clint Coulter, Tom Murphy, Peter O’Brien, Kevin Plawecki, Spencer Kieboom, Darrell Miller Jr, Jason Goldstein, Blake Hickman, Dane Phillips
1. Mike Zunino, Junior from Florida
6’2 215 R/R 3/25/1991
The Goods: Best catcher in the draft, Pops is a Reds scout, had catching gear since he was 6, student of the game, very good power and the long swing that goes along with it so much of the time. Natural leader, pull hitter, built, and he took on the SEC and kicked it in the jaw.
The Bad: Really not much. That long swing, and maybe some struggles with offspeed pitches. This guy is a beast.
The Stats: SEC player of the year, nominated for all the big awards, hit 371/442/668 in 2011.
The Ranking: BA #5, Mayo #5
The Giants: Not a chance of him falling.
2. Stryker Trahan, HS from Acadiana HS (LA), Ole Miss commit
6’1 220 L/R 4/25/1994
The Goods: Left hand batting catchers don’t grow on trees. Short stroke, excellent bat speed. Lots of power potential with solid contact. He is fast, different showcases had different speeds, but 6.54 to 6.80 is excellent for a guy built like a fullback. He is named for the Burt Reynolds TV show “BL Stryker”. Pop times under 2.0.
The Bad: Interestingly, its Mayo who says he may have to move off of position. BA loves him at catcher. The usual batting language with power bats is thrown around.
The Stats: 460/545/736 – the video game type stats you want to see in HS players.
The Ranking: BA #12, Mayo #24
The Giants: I bet BA is more right than Mayo. If he drops, it becomes a signing bonus issue at #20. Should they try? YES! The more Cajuns in this organization the better, says I. He’s left handed, he’s built like a fullback but runs like a tailback, he has a great bat and did I mention he’s left handed? He’s hit all the usual circuits – Area Code, Perfect Game, Etc. I like him more than his buddy Cecchini (SS). If he has to move off a likely landing spot is RF.
3. Josh Elander, Junior from TCU
6’1 215 R/R 3/19/1991
The Goods: Notice all the Catchers are built the same in the top 3? So Elander took over for Zunino for Team USA because of Florida going deep in the NCAA. He did a bang up job. He has good plate discipline with power potential, with pull side power. It looks like his season will determine if he moves into the first round as a Zunino alternative or slides back to the 80-120 range. Has good pop times, under 2.0.
The Bad: Struggled on the Cape. Hit 186/238/220.
The Stats: However he did hit 333/426/509 in 2011 NCAA. Also hit 327/421/510 with team USA.
The Ranking: BA #25, Mayo #48
The Giants: Kind of depends on what he does this year. I don’t think he has Trahan’s upside necessarily. If they want to draft a catcher I think they should love something about him, and have the flexibility to move him. College guy crowds the situation and forces more immediate choices. HS guy can stick while they move Joseph/Posey or be moved himself.
4. Alex Bregman, HS from Albequerque Academy (NM), LSU commit
5’11 185 R/R 3/30/1994
The Goods: USA Baseball Player of the year, 2010, first time for a HS. Along with the Golden Spikes, it’s the biggest award there is, and other names since they implemented it include Zimmerman and Strasburg. How important is this? Well, you look at the list of winners and there are very few busts. This guy has an advanced plate approach and a very easy swing. There is a six minute youtube video of him hitting in a HR derby. Yes, with a aluminum bat, but its still pretty impressive. Started as a SS, moved to catcher. Sound familiar? Might have to move to 2nd.
The Bad: Doesn’t have a final position. Speed is 6.8 to 7.0/60, so he’s not especially fast. His arm isn’t of note.
The Stats: USA 18: 564/596/846 (Calm down – 39 Abs)
The Ranking: Unranked
The Giants: Why is he unranked? Size? Average speed and arm? A move to 2nd preordained? This is definitely a intangible type guy, who plays every moment of the game. Maybe his size hurts him a bit, I’d say he might be more like 5’10. The Golden Sombrero guys, ex-college ballplayers, like him a lot, expect him to get within the top 100. And then its those bonus demands. I think the Giants have identified high Baseball IQ guys to target, maybe they look at this guy. As an aside, I think I want to kidnap the whole LSU recruit class and leave them sad bereft Tigers dreaming of the glory days of The Riot, The Hobbit and The Beard. Oh, and Todd Linden.
5. Clint Coulter, HS Union HS (WA), ASU commit
6’3 200 R/R
The Goods: Good strength and frame, power potential and pitch recognition.
The Bad: Just started playing baseball full time, mutlisport athlete, might not stick at catcher.
The Stats: UnderArmour and Area Code alumni
The Ranking: BA #56, Mayo N/R
The Giants: This is the type of guy who the CBA hurts. He’s going to go to ASU almost for sure unless he rockets up the top 100 which is a tall order. I don’t see the Giants looking at a guy who’s publicly talked about not liking the CBA.
6. Tom Murphy, Junior from Buffalo
6’1 200 R/R 4/3/1991
The Goods: Short swing with plus power potential. Hit in the NEBCL enough for all-star honors, best player preseason ranking in his league (that would be Mid-America Conference) Took Kevin Gausman deep at Fenway during a showcase. Pretty fast for a catcher 6.75/60. Good work ethic,
The Bad: Defense is solid but not spectacular, needs work.
The Stats: NEBCL: 291/367/575 2011 NCAA: 384/446/626
The Ranking: BA #68 Mayo N/R
The Giants: This guy just looks like a gritty old school catcher with some nice pop. He hit 10 HRs in 2011 NCAA, and another 9 at the NEBCL. Without having defensive excellence would the bat play somewhere else? LF? Outside the first couple rounds he looks interesting but some team should take a chance on him as a catcher.
7. Peter O’Brien, Senior from Miami
6’3 225 R/R 7/15/1990
The Goods: Recently declared eligible by the NCAA, he had to battle for eligibility after transferring to the U to be close to home and help his sick mom. 2010 USA Collegiate National team starting catcher. He was undrafted out of HS, had a breakout 2010 where he was the MEAC MVP, hit 20 HRs while hitting .386. Drafted in the third round 2011 by the Rockies, he turned em down. He has a plus arm, no info on footspeed so I’ll assume its average.
The Bad: Scouts think he’s not a catcher.
The Stats: Also hit 300 on the Cape in 40 Abs 2010,
The Ranking: BA #90, Mayo N/R
The Giants: Seems to have a lot of character. Line drive hitter with solid power, but looks like a move to first might be likely. Definitely a hard worker, and its always nice to stick it to the Rockies. As a senior, he is very signable.
8. Kevin Plawecki, Junior from Purdue
6’1 215 R/R 02/26/1991
The Goods: Johnny Bench award finalist, excellent plate discipline, 13th best K rate in the nation, only 10 in 252 plate appearances. He hit 341 with 2 HR 39 RBI. Judging from 211 Abs it looks like he’s a pretty nice OBP guy.
The Bad: Looks like he’s a contact/line drive guy.
The Stats: Also played the cape, hit .268 with 1 HR.
The Ranking: Unranked
The Giants: Don’t know what they’d do with a guy like this early, but let’s see what he does this year. In an organization not noted for developing patient hitters, I like to try and find some OBP guys. Looks like a grinder based on the low Ks.
9. Spencer Kieboom, Junior from Clemson
6’0 220 R/R
The Goods: Great name, he’s family is Dutch. Marietta GA, Cobb County. He went to Clemson with a defensive first rep and busted out some in the 2010 NCAA tourney. His defense is his strength still, but he is somebody to watch in the ACC.
The Bad: Not great batting stats, but its worth pointing out he was profiled on ESPN with a 360/455 line mid-season and then faded. Not much power so far.
The Stats: Hit .282 with a 13/22 K/BB ratio in 2011.
The Ranking: BA briefly ranked him #84 and then they pulled it. Mayo N/R
The Giants: Somebody to keep an eye on. There are 4 national standouts on Clemson – big name is Richie Schaffer but the Tigers also have 2 RH pitchers, Kevin Brady and Scott Firth.
10. Darrell Miller Jr. HS Servite HS (CA), UCLA commit
6’1 190 R/R
The Goods: Bloodlines. This is Reggie Miller’s nephew. And Cheryl Miller’s nephew. His pops was a big league catcher with the Angels for 5 years. Pops works as MLB’s VP of youth and development. The Urban Youth Academy in Compton is Pops baby. Big time UCLA family. One of the highest rated CA HS players, although its hard to find any footage of him actually playing. Big talker I guess.
The Bad: No way this guy isn’t going to UCLA, and if he got drafted it would take big money.
The Stats: Hit .545 in HS last year. Area Code 2011 alum, MLB UYA Compton alum.
The Ranking: Unranked
The Giants: Keep an eye on em!
11. Jason Goldstein, HS from Highland Park HS (IL), Illinois commit
6’0 190 R/R
The Goods: If he stays healthy he’ll break the Highland Park Giants games played record in 2012. He played the 2011 Area Code games with Blake Hickman, below. He has advanced footwork, receiving skills and a sub-1.85 pop. Gap hitter with a smooth swing and good approach. As most HS guys, he is pretty raw.
The Bad: Not a lot, he’s his high school QB as well, most likely has a very nice arm. Runs a 7.54/60, which is catcher speed.
The Stats: 10th highest in the Area code with a .363 BA.
The Ranking: Unranked
The Giants: This guy is going to college most likely. I just figured I’d put up a couple HS guys at the end who have received national attention.
12. Blake Hickman, HS from Simeon HS (IL), Iowa commit
6’5 210 R/R
The Goods: The opposite of Goldstein above, Hickman is more athletic and not nearly as polished at the plate. He is a better athlete, with a big arm and big size. He may not stick at catcher. Runs a sub 6.95/60.
The Bad: Raw and might not stick at catcher.
The Stats: Area code, also participated in ACE programs in Chicago.
The Ranking: Unranked
The Giants: The game needs more African-American players and a guy like Hickman who repeatedly turned down football to concentrate on baseball is increasingly rare. I hope the Giants have their eye out.
13. Dane Phillips, Junior from Arkansas
6’1 195 L/R 12/18/1990
The Goods: Alright, let’s get to the sleeper. Cape Cod all-star. Led the league in avg with .349 and RBI with 34. Left handed. Strong arm. Good power bat. Can hit to all fields. Can also play OF.
The Bad: He transferred from Ok St to Arkansas this year. Not sure if he has to sit out. He played 47 games at DH and 4 at catcher in 2011. Hmmm…. Here’s his new coach’s quote on him -Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn- “He’s a little better than I thought he was going to be. He’s a good catcher. He blocks well and has a lot of energy. He’s lacking a little bit of arm strength, but he can hit.” That is pretty luke warm. Sounds like this guy isn’t long for catching.
The Stats: 2011 at Ok St: 339/391/510 Cape 2011: 349/25 walks in 129 Abs/973 OPS.
The Ranking: Unranked
The Giants: In the later rounds, who knows. Doesn’t sound like a catcher, but scrappy guys who can hit and prove out in the cape…
OK. One more just for the hell of it – keep an eye on Riley Moore. He is from the Santa Barbara area, got drafted by the Phils last year, decided to go to Arizona. Their starter just broke his leg, Moore is in for it as a true freshman. I saw some Susac comps to Moore on a couple of Philly prospect sites and John Klima of Baseball Prospect Report loves him.
Should the Giants even bother looking at any catchers?
Thoughts on young Stryker?
How many is too many catchers? Highly rated catchers?
Who can move off the position best?
The big question of course is if Buster Posey moves off of catcher what does that do to his value?
I want to know more about Bregman. I’m very curious why a national award winner is being shunned a little for the hype.
Also, would it be helpful for me to post links? I don’t want to put a bunch of extra stuff up but that HR Derby youtube video strikes me as something that might be interesting for folks.