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Deep Dive: Catcher Edition, Part 4

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Here’s a snapshot of the top free agent catchers, as well as the best projected backstops in next year’s draft

NCAA Baseball: College World Series Championship-Arkansas vs Oregon State
Adley Envy: This Rutschman guy could be our next first-round pick.
Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

“Deep Dive” focuses on the depth of each position in the White Sox organization. Each position will be a four-part series:

  1. Depth in the lower levels (Dominican through Kannapolis)
  2. Depth in the higher levels (Winston-Salem through Charlotte)
  3. Under the Radar-type detail on one of the White Sox players at that position
  4. Free-agent options at that position, plus sneak peeks into available players in the upcoming 2019 MLB Draft.

So, finally, let’s take a look at free-agent catchers, as well as catchers who could be available in the first few rounds of the upcoming MLB draft.

Free Agents

With three catchers (Welington Castillo, Omar Narvaez, and Kevan Smith) vying for two spots at the major league level, and with the top White Sox catching prospects (Zack Collins and Seby Zavala) slated to begin the season in Charlotte, it wouldn’t seem that the White Sox would be in the market for a free agent catcher. However, if the White Sox trade Castillo, and either Smith or Narvaez got injured during the offseason, what choices would be available? Be forewarned: It’s not a strong list.

(age as of April 1, 2019)

Yasmani Grandal
Los Angeles Dodgers
2018 bWAR: 3.3
Slash/power: 241/.349/.466, with 24 HR and 68 RBIs
Age: 30

Grandal could be given a qualifying offer, and will be a free agent if he turns it down. The White Sox would have to relinquish their second-round pick in 2019 if they sign him.

Wilson Ramos
Philadelphia Phillies
2018 bWAR: 2.7
Slash/power: .306/.358/.487 with 15 HR and 70 RBIs
Age: 31

Kurt Suzuki
Atlanta Braves
2018 bWAR: 2.1
Slash/power: .271/.332/.444 with 12 homers and 50 RBIs
Age: 35

Devin Mesoraco
New York Mets
2018 bWAR: 0.7
Slash/power: .221/.303/.398 with 11 homers and 33 RBIs
Age: 30

Matt Wieters
Washington Nationals
2018 bWAR: 0.6
Slash/power: .238/.330/.374 with eight homers and 30 RBIs
Age: 32

Martin Maldonado
Houston Astros
2018 bWAR: 0.5
Slash/power: .225/.276/.351 with nine homers and 44 RBIs
Age: 32

Rene Rivera
Atlanta Braves
2018 bWAR: 0.3
Slash/power: .233/.275/.419 with four homers and 11 RBIs
Age: 35

A.J. Ellis
San Diego Padres
2018 bWAR: 0.3
Slash/power: .272/.378/.344 with one homer and 15 RBIs
Age: 37

Jeff Mathis
Arizona Diamondbacks
2018 bWAR: 0.1
Slash/power: .200/.272/.272 with one homer and 20 RBIs
Age: 36

Nick Hundley
San Francisco Giants
2018 bWAR: 0.0
Slash/power: .241/.298/.408 with 10 homers and 31 RBIs
Age: 35

Drew Butera
Colorado Rockies
2018 bWAR: -0.6
Slash/power: .190/.264/.301 with three homers and 21 RBIs
Age: 36

Jonathan Lucroy
Oakland A’s
2018 bWAR: -0.7
Slash/power: .241/.291/.325 with four homers and 51 RBIs
Age: 32

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2019 MLB Draft prospects

I will be doing a more comprehensive list next year, so this is just a preliminary list of catchers the White Sox could look into for the first round and beyond. The number in parentheses before the name is where FanGraphs ranks them as of October 7. Of course, players may eventually move up or down the charts depending upon how well they do in various offseason tournaments and upcoming collegiate/prep seasons. Because the White Sox tend to go with college players, I’ll list five college options and just three preps to consider.

College

(1) Adley Rutschman
6´2´´
216 pounds
School: Oregon State

Hit .408/.505/.628 for the NCAA champs in 2018, with nine homers, 83 RBIs, 53 walks and 40 strikeouts in 250 official at-bats. BaseballDraftReport says that the switch-hitting Rutschman’s “freakish athleticism, easy plus arm strength, advanced defensive skill set, and combination of hitability and power could put him on the [Buster] Posey path as a pro. He is an awesome catching prospect with the realistic upside as best catcher in baseball at his peak.”

(11) Shea Langeliers
6´0´´
190 pounds
School: Baylor

Hit .252/.391/.496 with 11 homers, 44 RBIs, 35 walks and 45 strikeouts in 2018. Quite a drop-off from Rutschman, but keep in mind that Langeliers had a far better year than Rutschman in 2017 (.313/.388/.540, compared to Rutschman’s .234/.322/.306). Langeliers is considered a great defensive catcher with a plus arm, and the ability to hit for both power and average according to MLBDraftExpress.

Kyle McCann
6´2´´
217 pounds
School: Georgia Tech

Hit .300/.423/.600 with 15 homers, 45 RBIs, 37 walks and 56 strikeouts. Numbers eerily similar to teammate Joey Bart’s last year.

Philip Clarke
5´11´´
190 pounds
School: Vanderbilt

Hit .294/.382/.450 with six homers, 36 RBIs, 27 walks and 40 strikeouts. Was considered one of the top high school prospects in the country a couple of years ago, and has a chance to move up quickly with a good year in 2019.

Logan Driscoll
6´1´´
195 pounds
School: George Mason

Hit .342/.407/.473 with four homers, 37 RBIs, 23 walks and 25 strikeouts in 2018 — nearly identical numbers to those posted in his freshman year.

High School

(52) Matt McCormick
6´0´´
195 pounds
School: St. Laurence H.S., Orland Park, Ill.
Verbal commitment: West Virginia

PerfectGame praised the local kid’s opposite-field power to left (he’s a left-handed hitter) and footwork behind the plate, giving the impression he could grow into a strong two-way catcher.

(61) Jonathan French
6´0´´
210 pounds
School: Parkview H.S., Lilburn, Ga.
Verbal commitment: Clemson

PerfectGame is bit on French’s quickness at catcher despite a thick build, with a strong pop time and defensive fundamentals. He’s a righthander with promising bat speed and plate coverage.

Ethan Hearn
5´11´´
199 pounds
School: Mobile Christian H.S., Mobile, Ala.
Verbal commitment: Mississippi State

PerfectGame is bullish on Hearn’s ability to develop into a solid catcher despite still-developing tools. Like McCormick a lefty, Hearn is a solid, line-drive hitter.