Posted by: bhyman | May 30, 2008

Position breakdown: Catchers

The draft is only six days away. If you haven’t ordered your copy of our 2008 Draft Manual, you’re missing out on our exclusive rankings of the 450 best draft prospects plus a first-round mock draft and scouting reports on our top sleepers (none of whom have been previously mentioned on this website). To order, click on the 2008 Draft Manual tab at the top of the page and follow the instructions to pay via PayPal.

This post is the first in a series where we’ll breakdown the top available talent by position and describe consensus first-rounders and sleepers alike. Today, we’ll discuss catchers. Finding major league quality catchers might be the toughest challenge for a scouting director. 843 catchers were drafted between 2000 and 2005. Of those, only 8 are starting catchers in the big leagues (Joe Mauer, Yadier Molina, Brian McCann, Mike Napoli, Kurt Suzuki, Geovany Soto, Chris Snyder and J.R. Towles) and only Mauer was drafted in the first round. Scouts put a premium on catchers who are defensively sound and have a strong arm. Hitting ability and foot speed are less important. Here are our top five catchers in the 2008 draft (scouting reports are below):

Top 50 overall

  1. Buster Posey, Florida State
  2. Kyle Skipworth, Patriot High School (California)
  3. Blake Murphy, Western Carolina

51-100 Overall

  1. Kevin Dubler, Illinois State

Others

  1. Tim Park, William & Mary

Buster Posey, Jr., Florida State

Posey has a real shot at being only the second catcher taken first overall since 1975. He was recruited to Florida State as a shortstop and spent his freshman year at the position before being asked to play catcher after the season. Despite only playing the position for two years, his defensive skills are all above-average. He has a strong throwing arm, which he showed off by hitting 94 mph on the radar gun while throwing 7 1/3 scoreless innings and recording six saves for the ‘Noles this season. He also has superior athleticism. Posey played every position in one game this season. Offensively, Posey put up two solid years before recording one of the best offensive seasons in college baseball in 2008. This year, he’s hit .467/.567/.864 with 19 home runs in the tough ACC. If he is not drafted by the Rays with the first overall pick, he should be snatched up within the first five picks.

Kyle Skipworth, HS Sr., Patriot High School (California)

Skipworth is by far the best high school catcher in the country. He’s a slightly above-average defensive catcher and he has worked hard to improve his blocking and receiving skills. What sets Skipworth apart is his hitting. Scouts expect him to be a well above-average hitter in the big leagues. A left-handed hitter, Skipworth has excellent bat speed and is one of the best pure high school hitters in the draft at any position. While he is not fast runner, Skipworth is fairly athletic and could handle a move to third-base or the outfield if he struggles defensively. Skipworth should be drafted within the first twenty picks.

Blake Murphy, R-Sr., Western Carolina

Murphy has repeatedly turned down large signing bonuses, but without any college eligibility remaining Murphy should be a fairly easy sign in ’08. He has an above-average arm behind the plate but needs to improve his blocking and receiving skills. Murphy is a polished hitter with an impressive resume. In 2008, he hit .358/.531/.740 with 16 home runs, matching his homer total from 2007. In each of his four seasons, his on-base-plus-slugging was .900 or better. He has very good plate discipline. Murphy’s Western Carolina team plays in the mid-major Southern Conference, but the Catamounts had a demanding non-conference schedule, which included Vanderbilt and Georgia. Murphy should be drafted in the first five rounds.

Kevin Dubler, Jr., Illinois State

Dubler has improved since his freshman year at ISU and put up impressive numbers in his junior season. He hit .358/.481/.653 with 9 home runs while playing at spacious Duffy Bass Field. Behind the plate, Dubler has slightly above average arm strength and very good accuracy. He’s also fast for a catcher, posting a 4.2 second time running from home plate to first base. Dubler should be drafted in the first five rounds.

Tim Park, Sr., William & Mary

Tim Park is constantly proving himself. Undrafted out of Our Lady of Good Counsel High School in Silver Spring, MD, Park spent two years at Montgomery Community College in Germantown, Maryland. He was named first-team All-American as a sophomore but again was not drafted. After transferring to William & Mary as a junior, Park has put up two spectacular seasons. His OPS was 1.058 in 2007 and in 2008, he hit .418/.488/.736 with 14 home runs. It is true that he plays against weaker competition in the CAA and that Plumeri Park is a bandbox, but it’s hard to ignore Park’s production. He is a below average runner and has below average arm strength, which might necessitate a move to first base. As a senior who has yet to be drafted, he should be easy to sign. Park should be drafted in the first 20 rounds.

Tomorrow, our series continues with a look at first basemen.

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