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Here are the Top 10 catching prospects for 2020

@GoldenSombrero
January 17, 2020

MLB Pipeline will reveal its 2020 Top 100 Prospects list with a one-hour show on MLB Network and MLB.com, which will be broadcast on Saturday, Jan. 25, at 3 p.m. ET. Leading up to the release of the Top 100, we'll examine baseball's top 10 prospects at each position. This

MLB Pipeline will reveal its 2020 Top 100 Prospects list with a one-hour show on MLB Network and MLB.com, which will be broadcast on Saturday, Jan. 25, at 3 p.m. ET. Leading up to the release of the Top 100, we'll examine baseball's top 10 prospects at each position.

This year’s Top 10 Catching Prospects list has its share of familiar faces, with five players earning their second nod in as many years. But there’s also been quite a bit of turnover compared to the 2019 list, and for a second straight year, the No. 1 spot belongs to the top catcher taken in the previous year’s Draft.

Adley Rutschman, whom the Orioles selected with the No. 1 pick in last year’s Draft, is the headliner of this year’s group, replacing 2018 No. 2 overall pick Joey Bart atop the list. A’s backstop Sean Murphy ranks among the top four for a third straight season and is joined by fellow three-timer Keibert Ruiz. Bart, Daulton Varsho and Miguel Amaya round out the rest of the holdovers from last year’s Top 10.

Graduation led to some turnover as well, as Francisco Mejia (Padres) and Danny Jansen (Blue Jays) both carved out roles with their respective teams in 2019 after spending multiple years on the list.

The Top 10 (ETA)
1. Adley Rutschman, Orioles (2021)
2. Joey Bart, Giants (2020)
3. Sean Murphy, A’s (2020)
4. Luis Campusano, Padres (2021)
5. Francisco Alvarez, Mets (2023)
6. Shea Langeliers, Braves (2021)
7. Keibert Ruiz, Dodgers (2021)
8. Sam Huff, Rangers (2021)
9. Daulton Varsho, D-backs (2020)
10. Miguel Amaya, Cubs (2021)
Complete list »

Top tools

Hit: Rutschman, Alvarez (60)
One of the more accomplished college hitters in recent memory, Rutschman batted .408 as an Oregon State sophomore and then improved upon that mark as a junior, posting a .411 average en route to winning the Golden Spikes and Dick Howser Awards. He’s a switch-hitter with tremendous plate discipline who makes a ton of hard contact, driving the ball with authority to all fields from both sides of the plate. Alvarez also has the makings of becoming a plus hitter. Signed by the Mets for $2.7 million in July 2018, the Venezuelan backstop slashed .312/.407/.510 in his pro debut last season and advanced to the Rookie Appalachian League at age 17.

Power: Rutschman, Bart, Huff (60)
Rutschman’s power improved during each of his three years with the Beavers, which concluded with a 17-homer junior season. He went deep four times in his pro debut, and scouts expect his power to emerge in earnest as he surges toward the Majors. Bart has huge pull-side power -- the product of bat speed, strength and leverage in his 6-foot-3 frame -- and clubbed 16 dingers in just 79 games while reaching Double-A in his first full season.

Huff, who hit 28 homers during a breakout 2018 campaign, may have more raw power than any catching prospect and generates high-end exit velocities using a combination of physical strength and explosive bat speed.

Run: Varsho (55)
That Varsho was able to handle center-field duties at Double-A Jackson late last season speaks to his athleticism and speed. He’s a rarity as a catcher in the sense that he possesses above-average speed and knows how to apply his wheels on the basepaths. He swiped 21 bags last year after a 19-steal full-season debut and has been successful in 82.5 percent (47 for 57) of his steal attempts in three pro seasons.

Arm: Murphy, Langeliers (70)
Murphy only appeared in parts of 18 big league games behind the plate in 2019, but he still managed to record two of the season’s hardest-thrown balls on caught-stealing attempts, including an 87.4-mph dart that was fourth-best in MLB. Langeliers also earns plus-plus grades for his cannon arm, and he threw out 41 percent of basestealers in his pro debut after the Braves took him in the first round (2019).

Field: Murphy (65)
The catcher on MLB Pipeline’s recently released All-Defense Team, Murphy also received votes from MLB executives as the Minors’ best overall defensive prospect. The 25-year-old is an excellent athlete and agile blocker behind the plate, with quick feet, instincts and plus-plus arm strength that allow him to make highlight-reel plays. He’s developed into a good framer and receiver, albeit one who still requires more refinement, and pitchers love to throw to him because of his game-calling skills and overall energy.

Superlatives

Ceiling: Rutschman
The sky is the limit for Rutschman, who is perhaps the best all-around catching prospect since Joe Mauer was the No. 1 pick back in 2001. He has similar All-Star, if not MVP potential, and could make quick work of the Minor Leagues with his four plus tools (hit, power, arm, defense) and baseball acumen.

Floor: Rutschman
Rutschman’s blend of plus hitting ability and power from both sides of the plate would easily play at another position if he was forced to move from behind the plate, and he’s good enough defensively that he should still offer plenty of value as a glove-first regular or backup.

Rookie of the Year candidate: Murphy
The only player on this year’s list with big league experience, Murphy made his A’s debut as a September callup and went on to hit .245/.333/.566 with four home runs in parts of 20 games. The former third-round pick (2017) is ticketed for everyday catching duties in 2020 and will likely to be a preseason RoY favorite given his ability to contribute on both sides of the ball.

Highest riser: Huff
Huff jumped from No. 21 (preseason) to No. 2 on the Rangers Top 30 Prospects list last season during a breakout campaign that saw him hit 28 home runs and cut down 47.6 percent of attempted basestealers across two levels. He also took home MVP honors at the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game in July after hitting a booming, game-tying home run for the U.S. squad.

Humblest beginnings: Huff
Huff was the first Arizona high schooler selected in the 2016 Draft but lasted until the seventh round, signing with Texas for $225,000. He struggled to gain traction in his first two pro seasons, spending both in Rookie ball, before jumping to Class A Hickory and hitting 18 homers in 2018. The 22-year-old only built upon that performance in 2019, emerging as one of the game’s more intriguing catching prospects with his unique mix of size (6-foot-4, 230 pounds), right-handed power and catch-and-throw skills.

Most to prove: Ruiz
Signed for $140,000 out of Venezuela in 2014, Ruiz and Will Smith served as Double-A Tulsa’s catching tandem in 2018, and at the time many evaluators preferred the former to the latter. While Smith established himself as Los Angeles' starting catcher by the end of 2019, Ruiz returned to Double-A and posted the worst offensive numbers of his career while throwing out just 21.8 percent of basestealers. The good news is that Ruiz, who doesn’t turn 21 until next July, still has age on his side and time to develop on both sides of the ball, and he’d performed well as a younger player against advanced competition at every stage of his career prior to last season -- which he finished on a high note by batting .316 with two homers in nine Triple-A games.

Keep an eye on: Tyler Stephenson, Reds
The 2015 first-round pick was plagued by injuries during the first stages of his career, but he’s shown plenty of potential when healthy and began to put it all together in 2018. After a solid regular season in Double-A (.285/.372/.410), the 23-year-old backstop had a very strong AFL campaign (.347/.372/.410 in 49 at-bats) to earn a spot on the 40-man roster.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.