The Talking Chop 2020 MLB Draft preview has reached the point of taking a position by position look at the talent available this year.
As always, we will start off at catcher, a position that the Atlanta Braves are highly unlikely to spend a pick on in 2020 after drafting Shea Langeliers in the Top 10 in 2019 to join William Contreras in the system. As if that’s not enough of a reason, the draft is just five rounds with the Braves down a pick as a result of free agent signings. Really the only way to predict the Braves drafting a catcher is to have one drop to the point the front office just can’t ignore the excess value.
This 2020 crop of catchers may be the best top to bottom class on paper that I’ve ever seen while doing this. There isn’t a true star like an Adley Rutschman, or even a Joey Bart, but there are six different guys with legitimate chances to be first rounders and a total of 17 catchers that I would safely put into a Top 250 overall.
- Patrick Bailey, NC State
The clear cut top catcher in this class is NC State star Patrick Bailey. Bailey isn’t the same type of prospect as last year’s top prospect Adley Rutschman, but he presents a similar value to Shea Langeliers (in terms of overall value - this not a comp as they are different players). Bailey is a strong defender with an above average arm, though his defense isn’t quite on the level of Langeliers. He does have more potential with the bat, as he’s a switch hitter with some pop and contact ability. There is some question on if he’s going to be able to hit left-handers as his right handed swing is not the prettiest, but there is some hope that he will be able to make enough contact to really let his above average power play.
2. Austin Wells, Arizona
The next bat to come out of Las Vegas is Arizona’s Austin Wells, joining the likes of Bryce Harper, Kris Bryant, Joey Gallo, and Tommy Pham. Wells is the best college bat at the position, a guy with plus power and an average to slightly above hit tool. Of course his defense isn’t quite the same level as his bat, keeping him off that top spot in the rankings. In fact there are teams considering taking him as a first baseman or left fielder because his arm is below average and the glove doesn’t do enough to make up for that flaw. Wells bat plays anywhere, but his draft stock will be dependent on where teams believe he lands on the defensive spectrum.
3. Tyler Soderstrom, California HS
Arguably the top bat at the position isn’t one of the college guys, but prep catcher Tyler Soderstrom. The son of former #6 overall pick Steve Soderstrom is a very high upside prospect for the position, but by nature of being a prep catcher he is also a risky pick. Soderstrom is seen as a plus hitter with average power potential, above average athleticism overall (plus athleticism for a catcher), and a big arm that should help his work in progress defense be playable with that bat. Soderstrom hasn’t caught much in high school, so he’s very raw behind the plate defensively and has a lot to learn there. However, he has the tools to develop there and the athleticism to play another position if the progress doesn’t come defensively. That advanced approach and ability to make contact with power on the way would absolutely be playable at third base or in left field.
4. Dillon Dingler, Ohio State
One of the players rising this year is Dillon Dingler, an intriguing prospect from a cold weather state. Dingler doesn’t have the loudest tools, but he is very well rounded and doesn’t have any big weaknesses. Dingler is a potential average hitter with plus raw power that he is working on tapping into, and is another above average athlete. Defensively, he has a chance to be a plus defender as he has slightly above average skills behind the dish and a very strong arm that easily rates as a plus tool. His stock is depending on teams believing he makes the power play in game, though he took a big step forward this spring with five homers in 13 games, which is impressive for a guy who hit just nine combined in his first two years on campus.
5. Drew Romo, Texas HS
The top defensive catcher from the prep side is easily Drew Romo and he may be the best defender in the entire class. Romo is a plus receiver with a plus arm and has the ability to lead a pitching staff. The question with Romo is the bat, though he has made some progress in the last year with his hit tool to give hope that he will hit enough to be able to handle starting duties for a team because of his defense. Romo isn’t a big power guy, but the defense, intangibles, and some promise with the bat should get him drafted high enough to sign him away from LSU.
6. Kevin Parada, California HS
Kevin Parada is the first guy on the board who has a chance to either go in the first round or a chance to not even be drafted at all. The California prep product has a strong verbal commitment to Georgia Tech, a program that has produced some very talented backstops in the last decade. Parada is a bat first prospect with a chance to hit for both average and power and has enough of a track record against top end competition for teams to believe he will hit. Defensively, Parada’s arm is above average, though he does need some work with his glove. This is the type of guy who could end up being a Top 5 pick if he ends up going to school and developing the glove.
7. Jackson Miller, Florida HS
One of the bigger risers on the prep side this spring at catcher is Jackson Miller. Miller is an interesting prospect, though one without any true plus tools rather a guy with a bunch of 50’s and 55’s on his scouting scorecard. Miller really is a sum of all parts player who doesn’t have any true weaknesses. With the ability to make solid contact with some power potential, above average athleticism, and very sound defense make him a guy to watch if a team can get him to sign away from Wake Forest.
8. Daniel Susac, California HS
You may see the name and think it sounds a little familiar, especially on a catcher list. Yes, Daniel Susac is the younger brother of former Giants top pick Andrew Susac. Susac has real potential, but as a two sport athlete he is a guy a little further behind in his development than some of these other prep catchers. Still Susac has potential to hit for both average and power and should be an above average, to potentially plus defender thanks to a big arm and decent athleticism. Like Parada, Susac has a lot of potential in the draft in a few years if he doesn’t sign this summer.
9. Casey Opitz, Arkansas
The catching crop starts to take a dip here with Arkansas key contributor Casey Opitz. Unlike the rest of the list, Opitz doesn’t project as a starter because he just hasn’t produced much with the bat in his college career. What Opitz brings is strong defense with an above average arm that plays up, an ability to handle a pitching staff, and a history of contributing for a winning program. Opitz is a below average hitter without a ton of power, projecting him as more of a safe backup catcher. So why does a backup catcher rank here? That is because Opitz took a step forward with the bat this spring and that leads to some hope that there is something more in there, giving him a little starter upside in addition to the high floor as a backup. It is worth mentioning that Opitz was a lightly used backup in 2018 to Grant Koch (2018 5th round pick) and only really had one year of a college track record before this year, so it wasn’t like he was locked into being a light hitter for his whole career. A team that believes in Opitz’s bat could grab the certainty he brings fairly early.
10. Kyle Teel, New Jersey HS
I wasn’t going to rank Teel as a player who has already committed to skipping the draft to enroll at the University of Virginia, but he’s too talented to just leave off the list. Teel has real power potential, a strong arm, and pretty solid athleticism behind the plate to make him a catcher to start following now if you’re looking ahead to the 2023 MLB Draft.
Other Names to Watch
Corey Collins, Georgia HS
Kale Emshoff, Arkansas-Little Rock
Carlos Perez, Florida HS
Jack Bulger, Maryland HS
Michael Rothenberg, Duke
Alek Boychuk, Georgia HS
Matheu Nelson, Florida State(sophomore)