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Collins ranked MLB's No. 9 catching prospect

Former first-round Draft pick focusing on swing, defense in offseason
MLB.com @scottmerkin

CHICAGO -- Zack Collins ranks as the No. 9 catching prospect per the newest list released by MLB Pipeline on Thursday.

It shouldn't be too long before the left-handed hitter, taken in the first round of the 2016 Draft, emerges as the No. 1 catcher for the White Sox.

CHICAGO -- Zack Collins ranks as the No. 9 catching prospect per the newest list released by MLB Pipeline on Thursday.

It shouldn't be too long before the left-handed hitter, taken in the first round of the 2016 Draft, emerges as the No. 1 catcher for the White Sox.

"He just continues to work hard and find ways to get better," said White Sox director of player development Chris Getz. "He looks athletic, looks lean, looks strong and ready to go. He's been working really hard and fine-tuning his skillset."

:: Top 10 Prospects by Position ::

Collins, who turns 23 on Feb. 6, hit .224 overall during 2017 stops with Class A Advanced Winston-Salem and 34 at-bats for Double-A Birmingham. While his average wasn't where he expected, Collins showed solid plate discipline with a .370 on-base percentage. He added 19 home runs, 20 doubles, 53 RBIs and an .816 OPS.

Posture and body position were a few of the things Collins worked on with Minor League hitting coordinator Mike Gellinger in regard to his swing during instructional league action in late September and October. It was much more of a swing refinement as opposed to an overhaul.

With an average pop time of 1.9 seconds, Collins threw out 47 baserunners during his first full season as he continues to make progress behind the plate as well.

"The biggest thing for me now is staying positive and taking in the next season and playing hard every day," said Collins during a recent interview. "And obviously working on stuff and getting better at every aspect.

"Being in Birmingham was definitely good for me, and I got to play with those guys toward the end of the season and get comfortable there. I feel good with where I'm at."

Cleveland's Francisco Mejia tops MLB Pipeline's catching prospects. He's followed by the Cardinals' Carson Kelly, Keibert Ruiz of the Dodgers, Oakland's Sean Murphy, the Tigers' Jake Rogers, the Phillies' Jorge Alfaro, Baltimore's Chance Sisco, Toronto's Danny Jansen, Collins and the Cubs' Victor Caratini.

Birmingham figures to be Collins' 2018 starting point. The White Sox brought in veteran catcher Welington Castillo via a two-year, $15 million deal with an option for 2020, and already have Omar Narvaez and Kevan Smith in place, so there's plenty of time for Collins to develop as a necessity the White Sox have afforded to all of their top prospects.

Seby Zavala also has put his name in the future White Sox catching picture, after hitting 21 homers last season between Class A Kannapolis and Winston-Salem and following up that showing with an impressive offensive performance in the Arizona Fall League. But an ultra-fit Collins feels ready for the big leagues or whatever new challenge the White Sox envision.

"Physically he's in a good spot," Getz said. "He's in great shape."

"I'd like to be with them after Spring Training," Collins said. "I'm in no rush but whenever they need me up there, I'll be ready."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Chicago White Sox