This year’s list of baseball’s 10 best catching prospects is loaded with familiar names.
Joey Bart (Giants), Luis Campusano (Padres), Keibert Ruiz (Dodgers), Sam Huff (Rangers) and Tyler Stephenson (Reds) all reached the Major Leagues in 2020 and are poised to take on greater roles in ’21. They help to comprise a larger group of seven catchers who are projected to contribute at the Major League level this year, joined by Adley Rutschman (Orioles) and Miguel Amaya (Cubs).
But there is very little turnover from last year’s Top 10 catchers list, even after five backstops saw Major League time in 2020. Stephenson and 20-year-old Ivan Herrera (Cardinals) are this year’s newcomers, replacing a pair of graduates in Sean Murphy and Daulton Varsho.
The Top 10 (ETA)
- Adley Rutschman, Orioles (2021)
- Joey Bart, Giants (2021)
- Luis Campusano, Padres (2021)
- Francisco Alvarez, Mets (2023)
- Keibert Ruiz, Dodgers (2021)
- Shea Langeliers, Braves (2022)
- Sam Huff, Rangers (2021)
- Miguel Amaya, Cubs (2021)
- Tyler Stephenson, Reds (2021)
- Ivan Herrera, Cardinals (2022)
Complete List »
Hit: Rutschman, Alvarez (60)
A switch-hitter who projects to hit for a high average from both sides of the plate, Rutschman batted over .400 with 17 homers as an Oregon State junior and finished his college career with a .352/.473/.559 line before signing with Baltimore for $8.1 million as the top pick in the 2019 MLB Draft. Alvarez batted .312/.407/.510 in his pro debut, finishing the year as an 18-year-old in the Rookie Appalachian League, then earned widespread praise for his offensive performance at the Mets’ alternate training site.
Power: Rutschman (65)
Rutschman found more power in each of his three years at OSU, highlighted by a 17-homer junior campaign that pushed his career total up to 28. He added four more homers during his pro debut, ascending three levels to Class A Delmarva. The 22-year-old can drive the ball from both sides of the plate and shows a ton of over-the-fence pop without having to sell out for it.
Run: Bart, Alvarez, Langeliers, Huff, Stephenson (40)
Catchers who can also run are a bit of a rarity in today’s game, so it isn’t surprising that none of the 10 players on this year’s list possess anything more than below-average speed.
Arm: Langeliers (70)
The Braves’ 2019 first-round Draft pick (No. 9 overall) has perhaps the best arm of any catcher in the Minor Leagues -- a double-plus cannon that allowed him to throw out 41 percent of basestealers at Class A Rome in his pro debut.
Field: Rutschman, Langeliers (65)
Langeliers’ arm strength is one of many qualities that has earned him recognition as one of the best defensive catchers in the Minors. He also earns high marks for his blocking, receiving and game-calling. Rutschman also knows how to call a game, works very well with pitchers and has soft hands and excellent agility behind the dish, where his very strong arm is a weapon.
Highest ceiling: Rutschman
Viewed by scouts as perhaps the best catching prospect since Joe Mauer was the No. 1 pick in 2001, Rutschman’s suite of impressive tools and overall aptitude gives him the ceiling of a perennial All-Star, with some even pegging the Orioles’ backstop as a future MVP Award candidate.
Highest floor: Rutschman
The same tools that fuel Rutschman’s ceiling also give him a high floor. His prowess behind the plate makes him a safe bet to offer value defensively in the Majors, and he does enough things well offensively -- from hitting for average and power to getting on base at a high clip -- to forecast contributions on that front as well.
Rookie of the Year Award candidate: Bart
Bart struggled in his first Major League audition, batting .233 with a .609 OPS with strikeout and walk rates of 36.9 and 2.7 percent, respectively. But the former 2018 first-round Draft pick (No. 2 overall) had hit well up to that point, having shown the type of advanced hitting ability and game power in college and the Minor Leagues that inspires optimism that he will rebound in '21.
Highest riser: Herrera
One of the two newcomers on this year’s list, Herrera has improved every season since signing with the Cardinals for $200,000 out of Panama in July 2016. He batted .284/.374/.405 as an 18-year-old at Class A Peoria in '19 and continued to make developmental gains on both sides of the ball in '20, gaining valuable experience at the Cardinals’ alternate training site.
Humblest beginning: Huff
Huff was the first Arizona high schooler to come off the board in the 2016 Draft, signing with the Rangers for $225,000 after they took him in the seventh round. He had a breakout campaign in '19, slamming 28 homers and winning MVP honors at the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game, then reached the Majors for the first time in ’20, batting .355 with three homers in 10 games after a September callup.
Most to prove: Bart
Bart’s lack of plate discipline as well as the sub-optimal results he produced in his first Major League exposure has some concerned about his overall impact potential. In Bart’s defense, though, he did appear in only 130 Minor League games -- including 22 at the Double-A level -- before joining the Giants, who won 15 of his 28 starts behind the plate.
Keep an eye on: Tyler Soderstrom, Athletics
Soderstrom was viewed as perhaps the top prep catcher in the 2020 Draft class, but he fell to the back of the first round, where the A’s took him with the No. 26 pick and then signed him for $3.3 million, nearly $650,000 above slot value. He’s a polished hitter, one with a gorgeous left-handed swing and sound approach that gives scouts high confidence when projecting the 19-year-old backstop as a plus hitter with power.