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Atlanta Braves 2021 MLB Draft Preview Position Rankings: Catcher

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As usual the annual MLB Draft rankings start out with catcher.

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Henry Davis
George Walker IV / Tennessean.com

It’s already time our the annual MLB Draft position rankings, and the 2021 MLB Draft rankings start out where we’ve always started and that’s at catcher.

This is a very strong catching class, particularly on the high school side, and it’s not out of the question that you see as many as six different catchers with legitimate first round potential. Not that all of them are likely to stick at catcher defensively, but they all at least have a chance.

The Atlanta Braves aren’t expected to be targeting a catcher in the first round due to the presence of William Contreras and Shea Langeliers. That doesn’t mean they won’t take one in the first round should the unlikely happen and Harry Ford drops, considering he would be the best player available. The only other way the Braves take a first round catcher is if they were to believe in Adrian Del Castillo’s bat so much that they aren’t worried about his defensive home, but it seems more likely that better options will be available at 24.

I will rank my Top 30 catchers in the class with short writeups on the first 20 and then the final 10 just being listed. There may not be an Adley Rutschman in the group, but each of the guys in the Top 11 comes with real upside which is what makes this class is so strong.

If you see a guy missing that you think is a catcher or is listed as a catcher on another site, there is a very solid chance that player is listed elsewhere as I have very little faith in them sticking behind the plate. Case in point: this is why you don’t see SEC stars Wes Clarke and Dominic Keegan as they do deserve to be ranked, just not here.

1. Henry Davis, Louisville

Henry Davis has seen his stock take off this spring to the point that he’s in the conversation to become the #1 overall pick in the draft. Davis has successfully gone from being considered a defense first guy to a bat first guy at this stage of his pre-draft evaluation. His arm is easily a double plus tool, but his receiving is more fringy and some teams aren’t completely sold on him sticking behind the plate for sure. The positive is that he will have the bat to play elsewhere as he has the ability to hit for both average and power with each tool being a potential plus tool for him. He adds fringy overall run times, the type that could get him considered in the outfield if catching doesn’t work out. Davis might be a pick that saves the Pirates some money if they take him #1, but if you believe in his ability to stick behind the plate as a pro then he is worthy of that pick based on talent alone.

2. Harry Ford, Georgia HS

Harry Ford is a freak of an athlete at catcher, routinely posting some of the best numbers in drills at national events all last summer and producing in games as well. Compared often to JT Realmuto because of his athleticism behind the plate, the Georgia Tech commit from North Cobb HS brings plus tools with his power, arm and run speed which is....not a tool set you find very often at catcher. His spring didn’t quite continue on the roll he was on last summer as the hit tool and production dropped to merely good instead of being the guy grabbing everyone’s attention, but he’s shown that potential in the past. It also doesn’t hurt that with his athleticism and arm he has the fallback ability to play multiple other positions of a team wanted. Ford is a guy who isn’t likely to drop to the Braves pick, otherwise he would be #1 on my personal board for potential Braves draft choices.

3. Joe Mack, New York HS

The younger brother of recent Twins sixth rounder Charles Mack, Joe Mack is a bat first catcher who also spent last summer impressing at every stop he made. He projects as a guy who should hit for both average and power and brings a plus arm and average receiving skills behind the plate to go with solid athleticism for the position. Mack is a guy likely to come off the board somewhere between picks 20-35, but with the volatility of prep catchers, it is tough to pinpoint where in that range he lands.

4. Adrian Del Castillo, Miami

Adrian Del Castillo came into the spring as a potential Top 5 overall draft pick with one of the best pure bats in the country, able to hit for both power and average with a proven track record against top competition. Those performances came despite major questions about his ability to stick behind the plate defensively, however. Well, the 2021 season happened and he struggled at the plate as he had the worst season of his career while slashing .275/.380/.395 with just 3 homers in 237 plate appearances as well as striking out more than he walked for the first time in his career (28-27). For a pure hitter with above average power, it was shocking considering his previous career low marks were .331/.418/.547 between 2019 and 2020. Considering he will never be a quality defender, he needs to produce with the bat to retain his value. If the old Del Castillo shows up in pro ball he is a steal after the Top 15 picks in this draft, even if he ends up having to play first base as the bat is that strong. It isn’t out of the question that he catches as his tools are fringy and he does put in the work to try to improve, so he still has the potential to be a special offensive catcher if he can figure things out.

5. Matheu Nelson, Florida State

Matheu Nelson is a bit of an unusual riser this spring considering he has been highly regarded both out of high school and as a sophomore eligible player in the 2020 MLB Draft- which means he’s on the older side for this draft class. He’s always been a plus defender with a plus arm, but saw a spike in his power production this spring. He doesn’t bring the highest upside, but he’s a sure thing catcher with a real shot to be an every day guy and is the top college catcher on the board beyond Henry Davis that is actually expected to stick behind the plate.

6. Hunter Goodman, Memphis

Goodman is that sixth potential first round catcher and the one with arguably the lowest chance of sticking behind the plate due to less than average receiving skills and more of a fringy arm at catcher. The good news is he has a huge bat with enough athleticism to handle a corner outfield spot and an arm that grades out better in the outfield anyway. His value is in his easily plus power, though it does come with a lot of swing and miss. For him to go in the first round, a team likely needs to believe in his defense enough to have a real shot at catching which is possible since he hasn’t been catching very long so there is some thought he can still improve there. Either way, the bat is more than enough to play anywhere if he’s able to hit enough to make use of that big power.

7. Luca Tresh, NC State

A month or so ago Luca Tresh would have been the 7th catcher in this class with a chance to end up in the first round, but a tough end to his season has likely limited the chances of that. Tresh only took over the catching duties this year as the Wolfpack has last year’s Giants top pick Patrick Bailey locked into the job. Tresh did an adequate job there defensively and has a good chance to stick behind the dish. The worry comes with his bat as the hit tool was exposed as a below average tool with plenty of strikeouts as the season progressed. Tresh is going to be drafted for his big raw power and the chance to be an adequate defender at catcher, which profiles as a starter if he can just make enough contact for the power to play.

8. Carter Jensen, Missouri HS

Carter Jensen is definitely a bat first catcher who has proven that he should be able to hit for both average and some power, and brings a borderline plus arm behind the plate. His receiving skills are more debatable, but as a kid who just turns 18 days ahead of the draft he is on the younger side which gives him a little extra time to work on the defensive side of things, there is room for growth here.

9. Nathan Hickey, Florida

The only reason Nathan Hickey isn’t ranked higher is because of the serious doubt when it comes to his future defensive home. No one doubts that he should be able to hit for some average or that he brings plus power, but he’s a well below average athlete and fielder without the arm to stay at catcher leading to many expecting a move to first base. There is more than enough in his lefty bat to be able to handle first base, but it’s not quite the potentially special bat it would be as a catcher.

10. Ian Moller, Iowa HS

There was a time Ian Moller was the top overall catcher in the draft, but his fall from that spot had little to do with him and more to do with other guys moving up. Moller still brings serious power and had the single most impressive rounds of BP that I saw in Boston at Future Stars Series International Week. The thing that dropped him was his glove, as he had a rough weekend behind the dish in the three games played. I still believe in the bat as well as still think the tools are there to become a quality catcher, but now he will need to prove he can stick behind the plate as a receiver.

11. Anthony “Blaise” Priester, Louisiana HS

Sometimes listed as Anthony Priester and other times listed as Blaise Priester, this prospect broke out in a big way in October at the WWBA Championships. Priester showed significant power and a huge arm behind the dish to really get himself on the radar. Priester brings a pair of carrying tools in his power and his arm, and with his commitment to a junior college rather than a four year school, he shouldn’t be an impossible signing for a reasonable price.

12. Pat Winkel, UConn

Pat Winkel used 2021 to prove his 2019 was for real after missing the 2020 season with Tommy John surgery. He had to prove his quality 2019 with the bat was legitimate and did more than that as he not only produced at a similar level, but significantly cut down on his strikeout rate while showing potentially average power. The gains with the bat while he’s been at UConn add to his value that already came from being a quality defender behind the plate. While he’s just outside that Top 11, there is some starter potential here.

13. Casey Opitz, Arkansas

Casey Opitz was a huge riser last year after the longtime top defender saw a spike in power for the shortened 2020 season. It was a bit of a surprise to see him go undrafted and he returned for 2021 which showed that the 2020 power seems like it was just short sample size production. He’s a top defender and has worked with plenty of top arms, but he hasn’t shown the power consistently to be more than a high floor glove first backup.

14. Braxton Fulford, Texas Tech

Texas Tech mainstay Braxton Fulford took a step forward with his power this year, nearly tripling his career home run total in one season (five previously, 14 this spring). He’s a quality defender with experience handling quality arms and if you believe in the power spike, then Fulford has real value at catcher.

15. Noah Cardenas, UCLA

Noah Cardenas is another glove first catcher with limited power who had a brief moment of better power production only to see things go back to normal this spring. He’s a high end defender with decent athleticism and has already proven he has the ability to call games. He profiles as a backup catcher.

16. CJ Rodriguez, Vanderbilt

CJ Rodriguez is a guy who has some teams and scouts split. He’s an excellent defender who has spent plenty of time handling some of the very best arms in the country. The drawback is he has next to no power, though his pure hitting ability has led to him being able to minimize the strikeouts and post high on base percentages. He won’t have the bat to be a starter, but Rodriguez is a high floor backup catcher.

17. Kevin Bazzell, Texas HS

One of the harder guys to rank in this catcher class after some helium this spring, Kevin Bazzell comes with two significant tools in his power and his arm. As a catcher with those two tools being carrying tools, teams will be intrigued.

18. Joey Spence, Wisconsin HS

Wisconsin has been putting out some interesting bats from the high school ranks in recent years, and Joey Spence may be the next one. The Notre Dame commit has real power from the left side and has shown enough defensive ability that makes you think he’s got a chance to stick behind the plate, even though the main draw is the lefty power in his bat.

19. Ryan Wrobleski, Dallas Baptist

Wrobleski is an interesting prospect. Potentially a solid defender behind the plate with the athleticism to play in the outfield as well, he made his debut at DBU this spring. He had a decent showing at the plate, though he doesn’t walk much and strikes out more than you’d like. However, he did show the power to hit 7 HR over 141 plate appearances. With a little work on the approach to be able to draw more than seven walks, a team could have something here.

20. Sergio Guerra, Texas HS

Guerra came into last summer without much hype, but quickly got noticed as he’s an athletic catcher with a huge arm and serious defensive potential to go with some pop in his bat. This is a little higher on him than most others seem to be, but the defense and some power make him intriguing.

The Next 10

21. Rene Lastres, Florida HS

22. Anthony Migliaccio, Michigan HS

23. Michael Rothenberg, Duke

24. Jayden Melendez, Florida HS

25. Wyatt Hendrie, San Diego State

26. Charlie Saum, California HS

27. Troy Claunch, Oregon State

28. Anson Aroz, California HS

29. Shane McGuire, San Diego

30. Caleb Lomavita, Hawaii HS