A look at the young backstops working their way through the pipeline and what they might one day bring to your fantasy squad.
Ah, catching prospects. The sirens of the fantasy prospecting world. One look at those among the current crop of backstops who qualify as “fantasy relevant” will make any owner yearn for more talent and a deeper pool of names, which makes these minor leaguers even more attractive. After all, the average triple-slash line for all catchers in the majors was .245/.310/.344. How hard can it be for the next wave of catchers to top that?
The answer, of course, is very hard. The path to MLB catching stardom is fraught with more perils than the trek to any other position, and patience, above all else, is a virtue when courting young catching talent. Fast movers like Buster Posey are extreme outliers. Good overall players like Mike Zunino get overrated in fantasy circles. And offense-first names like Jesus Montero see their deficiencies ignored as we instead focus on the potential for future excellence.
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A look at fantasy impact of every significant transaction consummated on Tuesday.
After one of the craziest transaction days in recent memory, the fantasy team (literally, it took nearly the entire team given the short notice) went through all 10 transactions with fantasy implications to see who gained and lost value in the last 24 hours. A longer introduction than that is not necessary—let’s get straight to what you came here to read.
Scouting and interviewing a top catching prospect whose buzz is building.
As a high school prospect in the Albuquerque area, infielder-turned-catcher Blake Swihart drew serious interest from scouts due to his unique profile. His mature swing from both sides of the plate, good athleticism, and plus arm enticed the Boston Red Sox to select him 26th overall in 2011 and move him behind the plate full-time.
Although Swihart spent the vast majority of his high school career as an infielder, he has made a quick transition to catching in the professional ranks. His bat is progressing, as well. After hitting .262/.307/.395 at Single-A Greenville last season, the switch-hitter moved to the more pitcher-friendly environment of High-A Salem and the Carolina League in 2013. Swihart’s offensive numbers have improved drastically in his second full season, as he’s hitting .294/.358/.423 through 99 games. And the 21-year-old isn’t showing any signs of tiring down the stretch, batting .366 in 19 contests this month.
Kevin fields a team of players who might not be polished now, but nevertheless have the potential to be great.
Recently, an editor at ESPN told me he was taking his kid to a minor league game and asked which players he should keep an eye on. As he was seeing the Rangers' Low-A Hickory affiliate, one of the first players that came to mind was outfielder Jordan Akins, and I added a comment amount him possibly having the widest gap between the player he is now and the player he has the potential to be. That led to greater discussions about players to dream on, so what follows here is the All-Dream team currently in the minors. All of these players have the potential to be high-impact players in the big leagues, but every one of them has a long way to go and a lot of work to do to get there.
A quick look at ten players with notable opening weekends in the minors.
Matt Adams, 1B, Cardinals (Triple-A Memphis)
Though he was last year's Texas League MVP, Adams still hasn't gotten a lot of love, as he was a 23rd round pick out of a small school in Pennsylvania and he looks more like a cleanup hitter for a 16-inch softball team than a professional baseball one. He gained more support from scouts with an impressive spring, and while he went 0-for-3 on Sunday, he's still off to one of the hotter starts around: after going deep in Thursday's opener, he hit another on Friday and just missed a third, and after initially getting an off day on Saturday, he ended up providing a pinch-hit three-run shot in the ninth inning. No prospect is going to make anybody forget Albert Pujols, but Adams could make the loss a little less painful for Cardinals fans in 2013, if not earlier.
Will the Red Sox be sporting a bevvy of top prospects next year, or will they be derailed by beer and fried chicken?
Prospect #1: 3B Will Middlebrooks Background with Player: My eyes; industry sources. Who: Middlebrooks, a fifth-round selection in the 2007 draft, has slowly worked his way up the professional ladder. Thanks to trades and general attrition, he has become the de facto top prospect in the system. His ceiling isn’t going to bewilder people with its towering presence, but his floor is high and steady; the end results should be at least a solid-average player for a decade.
The 23-year-old Texan is quite skilled with the leather at third; he has good actions and instincts to go along with a very strong arm. At the plate, the hit tool is fringy and batting average will be a challenge at the highest level, but the developing power is legit and will eventually grade out as a plus tool. Middlebrooks has a good baseball face and the grit of a scrawny utility type, only in the package of an athletic 6-foot-4, 200-pound first-division type.
The Jays and Rays had plenty of picks, but did they make away like bandits with their hauls?
Baltimore Orioles First Three Rounds 1. (4) Dylan Bundy, RHP, Owasso HS (OK)
2. (64) Jason Esposito, 3B, Vanderbilt
3. (94) Mike Wright, RHP, East Carolina Who They Are: The Orioles get their man in Bundy, and while he certainly offers more risk than the three college arms drafted before him, one could make an argument that he has more upside than any player in the draft. While it is difficult enough to recall many high school players with his stuff, to find one with his stuff, command, and pitching instincts is nearly impossible. Beyond the mid- to upper-90s fastball than can touch 100 mph, he has two quality breaking balls, a very advanced changeup for his age, and throws all of his pitches for strikes with utter fearlessness. He has true ace potential, and while it's optimistic, reaching the big leagues by the end of 2013 is not out of the question.
Kevin Goldstein, ear to the ground, tells you how he hears the draft will go down.
1. Pittsburgh Pirates: Gerrit Cole, RHP, UCLA. Upgrade this call from “lean” to “heavy lean.” It seems clear that Anthony Rendon is out of the picture, so it's between Cole and Danny Hultzen, who did himself few favors by throwing out a big bonus number over the weekend. With no inexpensive option to turn to, Cole is the guy. Last Mock: Gerrit Cole.
Kevin's official Mock Draft will come Monday, but here is the ashcan version, complete with raw notes so you can see how the pieces come together.
What you see below is my current mock draft. Instead of big write-ups, which I’m saving for my final mock draft on Monday, these are the notes from calls and texts in my latest mock worksheet with source names removed. I hope it's a fun look at how the sausage is made.