The rankings among the catching prospects is rather volatile, with new players in the bottom three spots and two holdovers from the prior year. It also demonstrates the gulf of talent in the organization behind the dish.
At the top of the rankings, you have three older players with 40 man protection, each of whom is at a pivotal point in their career. Rounding out the top five are two teenagers with raw talent.
1. Zack Collins – Ranked 8th Overall, Last Level MLB
One of the more polarizing figures within the fan base, Collins ended last season in Chicago. With the expansion of the major league roster to 26 players this year, there is speculation that he may break camp with the team again in 2020. But with the additions of Edwin Encarnación, Yasmani Grandal and the return of All-Star James McCann, Collins would be relegated to the third catcher/backup 1B/DH role.
Is a deep bench position, the best way to use one of the top hitting prospects in the organization? Or would Collins be better off getting regular at-bats in Charlotte? With an OPS of .951 in 2019, he’s proven himself at the Triple-A level, leaving some to speculate if he’s a viable trade candidate. Either way, Collins is at a career crossroads and is distinctly the top catching prospect in the organization.
2. Seby Zavala – Unranked, Last Level AAA
At this point last year, there was serious discussion if Zavala would surpass Zack Collins as the top catching prospect in the organization. Unfortunately, a challenging 2019 campaign has changed the outlook for the former 12th round draft pick.
In a brief five-game stint at the big league level, Zavala struck out nine times in 12 at-bats. It’s unfair to judge him based on that performance. However, his Triple-A numbers are in sharp contrast to Collins. In 331 at-bats, Zavala slashed .222/.296/.471. He posted an OPS of .767 with a 35% strikeout rate. On the plus side, Seby smashed 20 home runs.
At 26-years-old, Zavala is facing a career crossroads. With the additions to the big league club this offseason, he is considered a DFA candidate. Having been spared this fate, it’s unclear what his role will be long-term.
Solid defensively, he could fill the part of the third catcher that shuttles back and forth between Chicago and Charlotte in the event of an injury to someone at the MLB level. But if Collins makes the big league club, is that role necessary? Either way, its clear Zavala needs to bounce back at the dish this year if he is to become a major league catcher.
3. Yermin Mercedes – Unranked, Last Level AAA
Another catcher at the Triple-A level with 40-man protection, Mercedes offensive skills have made him a fan favorite. In 220 at-bats with the Knights, he posted a stellar 1.033 OPS. He further fueled the excitement by launching 17 balls in the seats in Charlotte.
Shortcomings on defense have slowed the 26-year-old Dominican’s path to the big leagues. In addition to catching, he spent time at third and first. White Sox GM Rick Hahn has indicated that he is farther along defensively than most observers think. He supported this by adding him to the 40-man roster as protection from being lost in the Rule 5 draft.
Similar to the other top players at this position, Mercedes’s future with the White Sox has been clouded by the recent acquisitions. Encarnación is only signed for one year, so it’s possible for him to stick around as a DH candidate. Showing more with the glove this season will make him even more viable as a major leaguer. Given his offensive performance last season, he will be one of the more fun prospects to watch in 2020.
4. Jefferson Mendoza – Unranked, Last Level DSL (Dominican Summer League)
As an 18-year-old in the Dominican Summer league in 2019, Mendoza doesn’t get as much attention as someone playing stateside, but he has put up some impressive numbers. In 110 games on the island last year, he posted an OPS of .875 and a strike out rate of 25%, which is good for someone so young. Upon signing as an international free agent out of Venezuela in 2017, a member of the White Sox staff told MLB.com the 6 1’ 170-pound right hander’s defensive skills.
“Jefferson is a plus defensive catcher with an excellent frame for the position,” said Marco Paddy, White Sox special assistant to the general manager, international operations. “His abilities to handle a pitching staff and call a game should help him develop quickly.”
With most of the talent within the organization at the top level of the minor league system, it’ll be interesting to see how quickly Mendoza moves through the organization.
5. Victor Torres – Unranked, Last Level RK
Taken in the 11th round of the 2019 draft, Torres stepped up to the plate 96 times slashing .219/.240/.240 with 28 strikeouts. While those numbers don’t jump off the page, there’s plenty of optimism around the 19-year old from Puerto Rico.
In his draft summary, managing editor James Fox wrote, Torres is a 6-foot, 175-pound backstop known for his defense, according to Perfect Game. He’s a 6.64 runner with room for growth and he shows advanced skills behind the plate. Hostetler said that he can “really flat out catch and throw. It’s elite and plus across the board.”
Also receiving votes at the position Tyrus Green.
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