Catchers are the most difficult baseball players to scout, which is why it’s rare to see them taken in the first round and even more rare to see those first-rounders stick behind the plate long-term. Just six of the 30 catchers who have started a majority of their team’s games this season— Buster Posey, Matt Wieters, Yasmani Grandal, Jason Castro, Jeff Mathis, and Mike Zunino — were first-round picks.
This year, there are no prospects like Posey or Wieters that are expected to be among the draft’s top 10 picks. In fact, it’s quite possible that no catchers will even go within the top 30; high-schooler Hagen Danner has gotten looks both behind the plate and on the mound, but it’s very likely that he’ll be a pitcher as a pro. While there might not be any superstars, though, there are plenty of catchers in this class capable of making impacts in the major leagues. Here are five to watch out for next week:
M.J. Melendez, Westminster Christian High School (FL)
Melendez, a Florida International commit who is viewed by some as the top all-around catcher in this year’s draft class, obviously carries value as a left-handed hitting catcher with offensive upside. As things stand now, though, Melendez is actually more highly regarded for his defensive ability. There’s room for improvement for his blocking and receiving skills—and he certainly has time to develop that area of his game since he’s just 18 years old—but his throwing skills are spectacular, and he’s got the ability to throw from his knees with accuracy.
Luis Campusano, Cross Creek High School (GA)
Campusano is an impressively polished backstop, and his skills behind the plate should enable him to be taken early in this year’s draft. The 6-foot, 200-pounder is an outstanding blocker and possesses solid receiving and throwing skills. His greatest untapped potential seems to be as a hitter, and with his muscular frame, he looks like a guy who could hit for decent power in the majors. Campusano is committed to South Carolina, so he’ll have leverage at the negotiating table.
Riley Adams, University of San Diego
Adams is generally considered to be the best college catcher in this draft, and he’s got plus skills as both a hitter and a defender. As is always the case with tall catchers, there are concerns about Adams’ long-term durability due to his 6-foot-5, 215-pound frame, and there are certainly things he could stand to improve behind the plate, but if he flashes the same type of power that he’s displayed as a collegiate player (12 doubles and 13 homers in 202 at-bats this season), he should be able to provide some value to a big-league club.
Evan Skoug, Texas Christian University
Skoug, who probably wins the award for looking more like a catcher than anyone else in this draft class, has the potential to impact a club in a major way as a slugging, left-handed hitting backstop. With that said, he’ll need to work on his defense in order to make that happen. The 5-foot-11, 200-pounder is somewhat slow out of the crouch and doesn’t exactly have a cannon arm. He’ll at least have to show that he can call a strong game and frame pitches well if he doesn’t want to end up at first base, a move that would likely decrease his value quite a bit.
Connor Wong, University of Houston
Wong is a unique catching prospect to say the least, as he’s a collegiate player who’s only been catching for two years. On top of that, he’s undersized for a catcher and actually possesses above-average speed, an extreme rarity for a backstop. Wong has some surprising pop (12 homers in 2017) and has shown strong plate discipline during his collegiate career. If he can get on base as a professional, his ability to swipe a bag (26 steals in 30 tries this season) or take an extra base will be valuable. Teams will have to hope that his baserunning skills don’t wear down as he spends more time behind the plate, though, because as things stand now it appears that he isn’t polished enough behind the plate to survive on defense alone.