Posted by Mack Ade at 10:00 AM
1. JJ Schwartz Florida
LWOS - Anyone who closely follows the Braves franchise should already know of the two weakest links in its farm system: catching and power. With the recent focus on both, there is no better time to make the argument that J.J. Schwarz needs to be the first guy off their board in the 2017 first year player draft. This kid can be an answer to both. The top catchers in the system right now, Lucas Herbert, Brett Cumberland, and possibly Alex Jackson, either haven’t shown proficient skill in the batter’s box, or lack defensive ability behind it. Herbert is a great glove and battery-mate to Kolby Allard and the Single-A crew, but his hitting is largely judged on what he did in high school. Cumberland completed his sophomore season at Cal showing he can hit for average (.344) and get on base (.480), but power was and is not a tool of his, and his future at catcher is widely doubted.
2. Evan Skoug TCU
Frogowar - Skoug has improved at the plate each season he has played, becoming a complete player in the process. A career .293 hitter, he has played in 130 of 131 possible games over the course of his first two seasons in Fort Worth, proving to be a durable and reliable leader at one of the most important positions on the diamond. He has managed a veteran pitching staff with aplomb, possessing a preternatural calm behind the dish, framing pitches with precision, and helping build one of the best staffs in the nation. Meanwhile, he hit 21 doubles, a triple, and nine home runs in his sophomore season, improving in each category. He also has 97 runs batted in over the course of the last two year. The Frogs have won a Big 12 Championship, a Big 12 Tournament Championship, hosted two Regionals, a Super Regional, and made the College World Series twice in his career.
3. M.J. Melendez Westminster Christian School (CA)
Fangraphs This is the best prep catcher I saw this summer but it’s hard to glean anything from a statement like that because depth at premium positions (especially among high schoolers) is very volatile, draft to draft.. Melendez has special defensive traits. He is lithe, loose and twitchy with uncommon athleticism and movement skills for a catcher, as well as an average receiver with plus raw arm strength. I had pop times as low as 1.94 to second base and 1.5 flat to third. Melendez also has some potential with the bat (which I’ll get into later) but he’s very raw offensively and is going to be drafted primarily because of his defensive ability. So where are catching prospects like this typically selected? Here’s a brief rundown of early-round high-school catchers from recent years:
4. KJ Harrison Oregon State
Fangraphs His unimpressive summer line wouldn’t suggest it, but Harrison may have the best future hit tool on this list. He got off to a nice start for Team USA, but faded down the stretch and really struggled in the Cuba series, going 1-for-17 over those five games. His performance in the spring (.309/.401/.527) and natural hitting tools, however, paint a more complete picture of his offensive potential. Harrison has an easy, fluid swing with an all-fields approach that — before his cold spell — at one point produced three opposite-field hits over a 14-inning stretch. Employing a wide setup deep in the box, he reduces wasted movement with a minimal hand load and hip coil. Those features have the unintended consequence of sapping some of the juice from his bat, although he still flashes above-average raw power in batting practice. Defensively, there’s still a lot of work to do if he’s going to stay behind the plate. He has at least above-average arm strength, but the actions and hands are just OK and he’ll probably never be anything better than average defensively. If catching doesn’t work out, the bat may be enough to play at first or left field where his below-average foot speed could be hidden from exposure.
5. Mike Rivera Florida
Florida Gators - AS A SOPHOMORE (2016): Appeared in 67 games for the Gators, starting 66, mainly at catcher and DH…Hit .245 (56-229) with 47 RBI and 33 runs scored…20 of his 56 hits went for extra bases, including 9 home runs, 2 triples, and 9 doubles, good for a slugging percentage of .419…Walked 28 times to go along with 26 strikeouts, giving him an OBP of .347…Tied with Buddy Reed for the team lead in sacrifice bunts with 5…Ranked second on the team with 9 HBP…Hit .263 (26-99) in SEC play while starting all 29 SEC games…Slugged .434 against SEC competition, which ranked third on the team…Knocked in the Gators first two runs of the season with a sac fly and solo home run against Florida Gulf Coast…In the three game series against Tennessee, went 5-12 with 2 home runs and 6 RBI…Only committed 3 errors on the year, contributing to a fielding percentage of .994…Threw out 15 of 30 runners attempting to steal against him…Hit .389 (7-18) on the Gators’ run to the SEC Tournament championship game…Had the second most games with multiple RBI on the team with 16…Named to the All-SEC Second Team…Earned All-SEC Defensive Team honors for his work behind the plate.
6. Riley Adams San Diego
USD - SOPHOMORE (2016): Played and started in 56 games as a catcher... Played as designated hitter in 6 games.... Hit .327 with six homeruns, 18 doubles, and a triple and a total of 43 runs....Went 4-for-7 in the first two games of the Vanderbilt series (2/19-20), hitting over .500 in both games and three RBI... went 5-for-10 against San Diego State throughout the season with two RBI... Went 3-for-7 against Oregon State with three RBI and a homerun... went 5-for-11 with six runs and an RBI against William & Mary (3/6-8).... Went 2-for-3 against BYU (4/9) with four runs, 2 RBI and a homerun.... Went 2-for-4 at San Francisco (4/23) with 1 run, two RBI, and a homerun... went 5-for-9 in the last two games against Gonzaga (5/20-21) to close the season with two doubles, a run, and an RBI.
7. Matt Whatley Oral Roberts
ORU - 2016 - Was named a First Team All-Summit League member behind the plate ... Earned Second Team ABCA/Rawlings All-Midwest Region as well as Academic All-League honors ... Started 52 games on the year ... Finished second on the team with a .363 average ... Led the team with 39 walks and finished with a team-high .469 on-base percentage ... Tied with the team lead with eight home runs ... Collected 21 extra-base hits on the season ... Had 10 doubles, three triples and eight home runs on the year ... Drove in 41 runs and scored 42 times ... Was third on the team with 73 base hits ... Had a team-high .562 slugging percentage ... Was a perfect 5-for-5 on stolen bases ... Went 4-for-4 with two doubles, two runs scored and four RBI against Little Rock on March 4.
8. Steven Williams Deerfield Windsor School
PG - PG - PG Grade: 10 - Steven Williams is a 2017 C/OF with a 6-3 215 lb. frame from Albany, GA who attends Deerfield-Windsor HS. Extremely strong and well proportioned athletic build. Plays both outfield and catcher. 6.89 runner, has right field tools on defense with a very strong arm with carry. Highest ceiling defensively behind the plate, has nice footwork and plenty of athleticism, big arm strength, just needs more repetitions receiving the ball and blocking. Left handed hitter, swing has noticeably improved in its path and extension of the last year, has lots of raw bat speed with lift and extension through contact, swing is a bit timing intensive and there is some swing/miss but the ball explodes off the barrel when squared. Looks to hit the ball hard. Verbal commitment to Auburn. Selected for the Perfect Game All-American Classic.
9. Deon Stafford St. Joseph’s
Penn Live - Stafford, who will be a junior at St. Joe's next season, is going to draw plenty of attention from major league teams if he continues to develop. The 2017 draft is on Stafford's radar. How good is the 5-10, 202-pounder? Well, this is what his sophomore season at St. Joe's looked like ... A-10 Player of the Year. Big 5 Player of the Year.
10. Calvin Greenfield Jensen Beach HS (FL)
Fangraphs - Greenfield is a stocky 6’1, 195, but is more angular and monolithic than the curvaceous Campusano-Bracero, who has similar measurables. I don’t think Greenfield can catch. He falls short with his arm, ground game and receiving as far say I’m concerned, and I don’t think there’s better than average athleticism here so I’m not banking on much improvement in any of those facets, let alone all of them. What he can do is hit. Several times during Area Codes he punished plus velocity into the gaps of Blair Field. Greenfield is quick into the zone, strong, and I think he has good timing. I just don’t know where he plays defensively.