Zunino clear standout on catchers Draft board
Florida backstop figures to go quickly, others likely later choices
Every team is always looking for more catching. Finding it, well, that's a different story.
While there is a very good catcher at the top of most First-Year Player Draft boards, there's a dropoff after that -- with an athletic, but relatively untested high schooler, who could still figure into the first-round mix, and a couple of other similar college backstops for consideration, but not at the top of the first round.
There's Mike Zunino, and then there's everybody else, with the University of Florida catcher likely to be selected in the first five or so picks. Stryker Trahan is next, with teams liking the bat but unsure of his ability to stay behind the plate. Peter O'Brien and Tom Murphy have similar skill sets.
"Mike Zunino is in a class by himself," one scout said about the No. 1 name on the relatively small list of catching prospects. "He's a Matt Wieters type. He's a hitter, he has power, he can really handle a staff. He's got it all."
"Trahan's a high school catcher, and we're not sure if he can handle a pitching staff," the scout continued. "If somebody takes him, he could be a quick switch. Murphy and O'Brien, they fit into their own different category. They're big, strong and powerful guys. They have power. There's been speculation on their catching, but they can catch. They're similar kids."
To see when the catchers come off the board, check out the wall-to-wall coverage of the Draft on June 4-6. It starts with the first round and Compensation Round A on Monday, June 4 at 7 p.m. ET. The first night of the event will be broadcast live on MLB Network and streamed live on MLB.com. Rounds 2-40 will also be streamed live on MLB.com on June 5-6.
MLB.com's coverage, sponsored by CenturyLink, will include Draft Central, the Top 100 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. You can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
Here's a more detailed look at the backstops who have the best chance to go in the early stages of the Draft, with where they rank in the Draft Top 100 in parentheses.
Mike Zunino, Florida (3)
As the top college bat in the class and no question about his ability to stay behind the plate, Zunino's name has consistently been near the top of Draft boards all spring. He calls his own game and is a natural leader behind the plate. The son of Reds scout Greg Zunino, Mike should hit for average and power. His name is being mentioned at the very top of the Draft, starting with the Astros at No. 1, and it shouldn't be a surprise to see him gone in the first few selections.
Stryker Trahan, Acadiana HS, La. (28)
Teams think he can hit, but whether he can catch is the question. He has the chance to hit for power down the road and is very athletic, especially for a catcher. He has the strong build you like to see in a backstop, but his receiving skills need a good amount of work. He does have a very good arm, but his footwork and hands don't grade out nearly as well. He could be a quick switch to the outfield type at the next level (a la Bryce Harper), with the skills to profile well in right field, though a team could at least give him a chance to catch to start out (a la Wil Myers).
Peter O'Brien, Miami (43)
O'Brien was a good prospect a year ago, taken in the third round as a junior at Bethune-Cookman. Now in a better conference, it might be easier to evaluate how his tools play out. One scout said he's pretty much the same guy as he was a year ago, just in the ACC. He has plenty of power and a strong arm. Some have worried about his ability to catch, but most think he'll be just fine. A team that thinks he can be an everyday backstop will take him early, and he has the chance to be a pretty good bat-first catcher.
Clint Coulter, Union HS, Wash. (48)
The next best prep catcher, Coulter is a physical specimen with serious raw power at the plate and a gun of an arm behind it. But as with the other high schooler on this list, Trahan, there have been some questions about Coulter's long-term defensive home. While he is fairly athletic, his size does limit his agility to an extent. He gets high marks for work ethic, which will come in handy as a team tries to help him improve behind the dish.
Tom Murphy, Buffalo (62)
Murphy, one scout said, is like O'Brien was a year ago: A strong catcher with power playing in a relatively weak conference. The power and strength are legit, though some are worried about his ability to make consistent enough contact to tap into that power on a regular basis. He's received better grades on his defense overall than O'Brien, with less concern about his ability to stay at the position. If a team thinks he can hit enough, it'll take him in the first couple of rounds as a potential everyday backstop. If not, he still could be a good right-handed power-hitting backup.
Others: Steve Bean, Rockwall HS, Texas; Wyatt Mathieson, Calallen HS, Texas; Dane Phillips, Oklahoma City; Kevin Plawecki, Purdue