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March 3, 2014

Top Tools

Best Catcher Defense/Catcher Arm

by Mark Anderson and BP Prospect Staff


Scouts spend countless hours watching and evaluating players, carefully considering the appropriate grade for each tool or each pitch a player offers. Throughout the course of the season and particularly throughout the course of ranking season, grades are tossed around with near reckless abandon. This player has plus power, and that player has a below-average fastball. This player offers above-average hit projection while that player buries hitters with a potential plus-plus curveball. It's easy to talk about the quality of an individual tool, but what does it all mean in the context of other players?

In the second edition of the annual Top Tools Series, the Baseball Prospectus Prospect Staff debated long and hard over how individual players’ tools stack up against those of their counterparts. Drawing upon our own eyewitness accounts and opinions from scouts across the league, the team debated and compiled the following ratings. The end result is a product that captures the oft-missing context of how individual player tools compare and who has the best of each tool in baseball.

Previous entries: Best Hit/Power | Best Speed/Makeup | Best Infield Defense/Infield Arm | Best Outfield Defense/Outfield Arm

Catcher Defense

Top Catcher Defense in the Minor Leagues: Austin Hedges (San Diego Padres)
Scouts have a hard time criticizing Hedges’ defensive abilities. Armed with a plus-plus arm, exceptional game intelligence, and a knack for all the other requirements of the position, Hedges is easily the best defensive catcher in the minor leagues and has the potential to become the best defensive catcher in baseball. Despite his youth, Hedges is already a polished receiver and blocker and manages his pitching staff well, sending his catch-and-throw potential nearly off the charts. Hedges’ defensive abilities already rate extremely well overall, and he could actually continue to improve with game experience. That’s a scary thought for his future major-league opponents.

Others Considered: Jorge Alfaro (Texas Rangers), Christian Bethancourt (Atlanta Braves), Reese McGuire (Pittsburgh Pirates), Christian Vasquez (Boston Red Sox)
Hedges' closest competitor is Atlanta’s Christian Bethancourt, an extremely confident—arguably cocky—player with elite arm strength, quick feet that lead to quality blocking, and improving receiving skills. Bethancourt is held back by the overall inconsistency in his game and his apparent willingness to take plays off behind the plate. His potential is obvious, but there is still development to be done. Jorge Alfaro and Christian Vasquez can both boast potential plus-plus defensive profiles, but in the case of Alfaro the game still has to slow down and come to him more, while Vasquez simply needs more high-level experience to refine his game. The youngest and least experienced player on this list, Reese McGuire, has a case for inclusion that centers on his defensive projection more than his present game skills. McGuire could jump all other contenders and challenge Hedges for the top spot by this time next year.

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Related Content:  Scouting,  Minor Leagues,  Catchers,  Tools

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Painting the Black: Th... (03/03)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Top Tools: Best Outfie... (02/28)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Top Tools: Best Fastba... (03/04)
Next Article >>
The Top 101 Fantasy Pr... (03/03)

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