Earlier this summer The Good Phight did a midseason prospect ranking combining the lists of the 4 writers here who follow and write about Prospects. A few weeks ago Jay had the same idea for his annual position depth charts. Now that may have been an excuse to get out of writing 7 articles, but that’s fine since Jay writes about 100 more pieces than most of us do here. This is the first in the series.
Similar to our midseason list, we each ranked depth at every position in the system, then took the average of those rankings for here (we only had one tie, which will get covered later in the series). Each of the 4 of us (myself, Matt, Jay and Victor) will write up two articles on a position. I was first to claim and I’ve been dying to write about our Catching, possibly the deepest position in the system, with good talent throughout the levels. In fact there is so much depth, it is going to be tough to find all of the good prospects playing time this year. It is also worth noting the top 3 are consensus (one of only 2 positions where that happened)
- Jorge Alfaro 2016: AA = .285/.325/.458, 15 HR, 241.% K, 5.1% BB
Alfaro’s 2016 was a huge success and separated him from the pack as the Catcher of the future. I’ve seen reports listing his Power anywhere from 60 to 80 on the scouting scale. As for a comp, the best one is probably to say Pudge with less batting average and more speed (Alfaro can steal bases here and there, he has pretty rare speed for a Catcher, at least for now). The rub in that comp is the lower batting average part. Alfaro made big strides in his Defense and his pop times in 2016, but his hitting remains a bit of a question mark. That may sound odd given the triple slash above, but Alfaro does have quite a bit of swing and miss and Reading tends to boost Offensive stats some. He’ll start the year in AAA and he’ll be the first call if there’s an injury or trade of Rupp.
2. Andrew Knapp 2016: AAA = .266/.330/.390, 8 HR, 24.2% K, 8.4% BB
Honestly, for a Catcher that’s a very respectable line. However after Knapp spent a few months in 2015 laying waste to the Eastern League it’s also a bit of a letdown for many. Knapp’s Defense is still a bit spotty. He’s going to get run on and should never, ever be allowed, under any circumstances to catch Mark Appel, lest runners steal Second and Third on the same pitch (uncalled for hyperbole alert). He struggles with balls in the dirt and his pitch framing in not ready for prime time, so even if he hits that well in the Majors, he’s probably a backup Catcher. Knapp’s problem is that he’s athletic enough to play the Outfield (where he played much of his College career) or First Base if Catcher doesn’t work out, but that triple slash is 5th OF quality. Of course I typed that a year ago about Tommy Joseph, whose bat took off away from the rigors of Catching. Still ToJo is the exception to the rule and Knapp’s glove needs to take a big step forward for him to have a long term MLB role. Knapp will get a chance with the big club in Spring and if he stays in AAA, probably gets a lot of DH time and maybe a few starts in the field when Alfaro catches.
3. Deivi Grullon 2016: A = .256/.320/.375, 6 HR, 23.3% K, 8.4% BB
Grullon spent year 2 in Lakewood (year 3 if you count his month in 2014) and may have been kind of forgotten by many. I pay very little attention to Grullon’s Offensive numbers in A ball. He’s unlikely to ever be much of a hitter, but that’s never been projected for him. Grullon’s arm is awe inspiring, a real weapon. He already has most of the nuances of Catching down and I feel comfortable with a floor of Christian Bethancourt and, contain your excitement here, but I think his ceiling could be Jose Molina. In other words a floor of replacement level back-up Catcher who occasionally flashes brilliance, ceiling of top shelf back-up Catcher who has a few decent seasons at the plate. If you Island of Dr. Moreau’d Knapp and Grullon you’d probably have an All Star. Sadly I’m pretty sure they don’t allow that.
4. Lenin Rodriguez 2016: R = .340/.438/.453, 1 HR, 12.5% K, 14.1% BB
Lenin is an Offense first Catcher who distributes the ball to all parts of the field (okay, honestly I’m reaching for a joke there, I actually don’t trust Rookie league reports on batted balls). Now let me try that without attempts at bad jokes about his name: Lenin is an Offense first Catcher who wears red well. Okay, take 3: Rodriguez is an Offense first Catcher who lived up to his billing in a small sample size in 2016. The Phillies signed him in 2014 for $300K out of Venezuela. Reports at that time were that he was a bat first Catcher needing to polish his Catching. None of the reports I’ve seen suggest anything different since then. If he continues to hit in Williamsport or Lakewood next year, he stands a good chance of rocketing up lists, glove be damned, since his bat could play elsewhere (though I’m sure his glove could, since he’s built like a prototypical Catcher).
5. Rafael Marchan 2016: R = .333/.380/.386, 0 HR, 7.3% K, 8.3% BB
Marchan, like Rodriguez has the classic Catcher build (short and stocky). He’s a converted Shortstop the Phillies signed for $200K in 2015. Like Rodriguez he’s a bat first player still needing polish behind the dish. While he’ll never have Alfaro power, he is expected to get beyond Revere power as he develops. He’s a switch hitter with a line drive stroke and could end up being the steal of last year’s J2 IFA class. Like Lenin he’ll live or die with the stick and he’s mostly ranked here, I think because he’s younger than Lenin. The floor and ceiling is really similar for both.
Honorable mentions: Rodolfo Duran (seriously, the GCL Phillies had Lenin, Rafael and No Mas. That’s a hell of a positional logjam at one level); Juan Aparicio (2016 signing in the Lenin/Rafael O-first mold)