Craig Goldstein takes a closer look at two 2012 first round backstops and what they could mean to fantasy owners down the line
We're bringing back the prospect comparison feature as part of our week-long in-depth look at each position. I had done some of these on an ad-hoc basis last winter, and am excited to have the opportunity to do so again in a more structured context. Today, we're going to continue our look at the catcher position by shining a spotlight on 2012 first round selections Clint Coulter and Stryker Trahan. I will look at both their statistical production and their scouting reports, though any sort of statistical evaluation will have to be heavily discounted given the meager at-bat total each player accrued (under 170 at-bats each). Tabbed in back to back picks (26th and 27th overall), let's take a look at them in the order they were selected.
Stryker Trahan brings a whole lot to the table. He's a catcher who might be an outfielder or a first baseman, he shows power and patience at the plate, he's got bat speed and strength, and he was named after a Burt Reynolds character. So while I'm not exactly rooting for more kids named Stryker (I'm torn on it really), I am decidedly supportive of more kids named after Burt Reynolds roles. Trahan was drafted for his bat and the possibility that he could stick behind the plate. He showed off what he could do in his brief start to pro ball, hitting .281/.422/.473 in Arizona Rookie League (AZL), with almost as many walks (40) as strikeouts (48). He also showcased his athleticism (he was a quarterback in high school) with three triples in 167 at-bats. While this might seem like random variation, Trahan is a good runner and I'd expect him to have more triples than your average catcher. Trahan has a good approach at the plate and can punish the ball with above-average bat speed. So how does a talent like that fall to the back of the first round, especially since it could play up the middle of the diamond? Well, therein lies the rub. Trahan has difficulty both receiving and blocking, and despite a good arm he struggles to gun down opposing runners. He receives strong grades for his make up, always a plus for a catcher and something to give us hope that he can stick as a backstop through hard work. Trahan appeals to me as a fantasy owner for several reasons. We've already discussed the bat and the advanced approach at the plate, but I also like to diversify my risk. I don't like being stuck with players who if they fail at their current position, are immediately rendered non-prospects. Trahan fits this bill, as he has the bat to be a prospect at either first base or an outfield corner, and the athleticism to play either. If he can hack it up the middle, then his fantasy owners are all the richer for it.
Selected 27th overall in the 2012 draft (one pick behind Trahan), Coulter has a similar profile to Trahan with a bit less athleticism but a better chance of sticking at the position. While Coulter might not be as athletic as Trahan, he was a high school state wrestling champion so it's not as though he's Dan Vogelbach behind the plate. Coulter shows good zone awareness, as evidenced by his AZL-leading .439 OBP with a full slash line of .302/.439/.444. He posted an impressive 37:40 K:BB ratio on the season. Coulter showed a bit less pop than Trahan, matching him in home runs (5) and triples (3) but lagging behind in doubles (3 for Coulter, 8 for Trahan). Coulter is physically imposing at 6'3/210 lbs, and has leverage in his swing that hints at future power. At the moment however, it's more of a line drive swing. Coulter needs to work on his footwork, although despite committing 21 passed balls and only throwing out 16% of opposing runners, Coulter is ahead of Trahan defensively and has a better chance at wearing the tools of ignorance down the line. He shows no ignorance at the plate however, both knowing how to draw a walk and the ability to lay off of pitches that would induce weak contact. Speed is not a big part of Coulter's game, as he went 3/8 on the basepaths. He displays leadership qualities on and off the field, and has shown a willingness to take instruction. As far as fantasy owners go, Coulter might have a little less bat than Trahan, but a better chance to stick at a more valuable position. Enough that depending on your risk tolerance, it might be worth picking Coulter ahead of Trahan.
When I sat down to write this piece, I knew I liked both players but had a predilection for Trahan because of the glowing reports on his bat. At this point however, I think I might be leaning towards Coulter just by the slightest margin because I like his chances of remaining at an up the middle position. Being fantasy however, I wouldn't blame anyone for taking the more advanced bat and running with it as Coulter requires more projection on the power tool and Trahan even offers a little bit of speed (8/9 on the bases in 2012). Either way it looks like the 2012 draft provided us with some great value options as neither Trahan nor Coulter are getting the same type of publicity as the early round selections. While they will certainly take longer to bear fruit, both could end up as more impactful hitters than 3rd overall selection Mike Zunino, who derives much of his value from his immediacy to the majors and his above-average tools across the board.
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