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2012 Midseason Prospect Rankings: Catcher

Mar 4, 2012; Bradenton, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays rookie catcher Travis d'Arnaud (15) signs autographs before the game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Pittsburgh Pirates at McKechnie Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE
Mar 4, 2012; Bradenton, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays rookie catcher Travis d'Arnaud (15) signs autographs before the game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Pittsburgh Pirates at McKechnie Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE

With the amateur draft completed last week, we figured now would be a great time to revisit our positional prospect rankings. Over the next two weeks, the staff here at Fake Teams will be providing their top 20 prospects in the minors at each of the infield positions (C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS), and their top 50 outfielders and starting pitchers. Here's a bit of how our determinations were made:

- Each player ranked at a position is either currently playing there, or widely anticipated to end up there by the time they reach the major leagues. As an example, Billy Hamilton is not expected to remain at shortstop long-term based on the opinions of others within the field. As a result, he can be ranked at shortstop since he currently plays the position, and will also be ranked at second base, as he is most likely to end up at that position.

- Primarily, we are viewing prospects who remain in the minor leagues, or who have been up in the majors for less than one month at most. As a result of this, players like Bryce Harper and Mike Trout will not appear on the outfield rankings.

- Draftees are not necessarily being included within the main rankings, but each position will have a few players from the draft mentioned as players who potentially could be in the top 20/50 lists created during the upcoming offseason.

- In many cases, prospects ranked within a spot of each other could likely be switched and still be fine in my rankings. As with all rankings, they are a good look at how I see the group of players at the time of the list preparation.

Position Overview

The catcher position as always remains in a box all by itself. There are no other positions that players will move from to the catcher spot really. The offensive numbers needed by a catcher to be considered a top-10 fantasy catcher are substantially lower than any other position. There are numerous defensive skills that can require much more time in the minor leagues to hone than any other position. As a result, the expectations of players who can stay behind the plate in the major leagues are not as high in terms of offense, and the players who exceed those expectations will tend to have a higher value than a prospect with similar skills at a different position.

Graduates in 2012 So Far: Jesus Montero, Devin Mesoraco, Wilin Rosario

Each player will be listed with their name, their organization, and their current level in the minor leagues.

1. Travis d'Arnaud (TOR) - AAA

d'Arnaud came into the season with high expectations, and playing in the PCL has done nothing to really tamp expectations to this point. Through Friday's games, he has a .327/.381/.581 slash line with 13 home runs and 38 runs batted in through 52 games. I think that at some point during the offseason, the Blue Jays will start shopping J.P. Arencibia, in the hope that d'Arnaud will be able to take over to start the 2013 season. As a result of this, he could very well put up some ridiculous numbers this season in Las Vegas. You can read more about d'Arnaud from a profile Craig did a few weeks ago.

2. Ryan Lavarnway (BOS) - AAA

Lavarnway was called up at the end of last season, but has remained in AAA Pawtucket for the season so far. He is hitting .292/.388/.439 with 5 home runs and 22 runs batted in through 46 games. It is a bit concerning that he has not shown the same level of power this season that he did in previous years, but I'm not ready to write off that power potential just yet. If it returns, I think you could be looking at a 25+ homer catcher in the Majors. That future might not start until 2013 though.

3. Derek Norris (OAK) - AAA

I wrote about Norris last Monday, and I believe he could be in the Majors by the end of the season.

4. Yasmani Grandal (SD) - MLB

It's been an odd couple of weeks for Grandal, as he was brought up last week, got 1 at bat over a weekend series, and was sent right back down to the minors. I believe that Grandal is a better overall hitter than Norris, albeit just barely. That said, I think Norris ends up posting slightly better numbers in his home park than Grandal will in his.

5. Christian Bethancourt (ATL) - AA

Bethancourt is pretty widely expected to be a top defensive catcher for years in the Majors, but it remains to be seen just how much he is going to hit once he is there. He is still just 20 years old, and has already advanced to the AA level.

6. Blake Swihart (BOS) - Low A

There remains concerns whether or not Swihart will be able to stay behind the plate long-term, but if he can he looks like he can be a very solid fantasy producer at the catcher position. He has been hitting better of late, with hits in 8 of his last 9 games and a .302 average over that timeframe.

7. Austin Hedges (SD) - Low A

Hedges was viewed at the time he was drafted as a catcher who would almost assuredly stay behind the plate, but it remained to be seen just how much he would hit there. So far, his hitting performance has been solid in the Midwest League, with a .273/.340/.468 slash line and 5 home runs. Hedges probably doesn't have the ceiling offensively that some of the other prospects have, but he seems extremely likely to me to stay behind the plate.

8. Gary Sanchez (NYY) - Low A

Sanchez is a bit of difficult prospect to rank for me. In terms of his hitting potential, Sanchez probably could have the highest ceiling of anyone at this position. However, there are concerns about his makeup, and whether or not he will have to be moved from behind the plate before he leaves the minor leagues. A midseason promotion to High-A could be in the cards if they feel he has shown enough maturity during this season.

9. Jorge Alfaro (TEX) - Low A

Alfaro came into the season extremely well thought of, despite his near-allergic avoidance of walks last year. However, he has been on the disabled list since late April with a hamstring injury. He was hitting .290 when he went on the disabled list.

10. Sebastian Valle (PHI) - AA

Craig wrote about Valle back in mid-April, and the hard part for me is the poor plate discipline from him. Through 45 games, Valle has drawn just 7 walks against 46 strikeouts, and it is showing a bit in his .247/.270/.402 slash line.

11. Tommy Joseph (SF) - AA

12. Andrew Susac (SF) - High A

13. Tony Sanchez (PIT) - AA

14. Rob Brantly (DET) - AA

15. Gabriel Lino (BAL) - Low A

16. Max Stassi (OAK) - High A

17. Will Swanner (COL) - Low A

18. J.T. Realmuto (MIA) - High A

19. Evan Gattis (ATL) - AA

20. James McCann (DET) - AA

HM: A.J. Jimenez (TOR) - AA

HM: Oscar Hernandez (TAM) - DSL

2012 Draftees

The following players were all drafted in the amateur draft June 4-6, and are discussed here regardless of whether they have signed a contract or are likely to sign a contract. At this point, these are just some of the more interesting names drafted, and we will hopefully be learning more about each of them as they start to sign contracts. These names are shown in order of draft pick, and do not necessarily note their ranking among draftees.

1. Mike Zunino (SEA) - 3rd overall

From all indications, Zunino will be a quick mover through the system despite being a catcher, and it appears that he has the potential to be a top 10 fantasy catcher when he arrives in the Majors. Based on the reports I have read so far, I could see a solid to above-average batting average, along with solid power for a catcher. I think most fantasy owners would take a .280 average with 15+ home runs from their catcher. Right now, I would probably put Zunino as my #5 prospect at catcher, behind Grandal.

2. Stryker Trahan (ARI) - 26th overall

The Diamondbacks announced on Saturday that they had agreed to terms with Trahan, and the big question surrounding him seems to be whether or not he can stay at catcher, or if he will have to move to the outfield. It's pretty clearly in the Diamondbacks' best interest to keep trying him there. That said, the reports I have read seem to indicate that his bat would play in a corner outfield spot should he need to move there instead, which could make him that much more valuable if he CAN stay behind the dish.

3. Clint Coulter (MIL) - 27th overall

Here's a brief snippet of what Jordan M over at Brew Crew Ball had to say about Coulter after he was drafted:

He's a righty bat and is known for his power potential, but unlike a lot of high school catchers, a lot of people I'm reading actually give him a good chance of staying at catcher-- he's not a "high school catcher" in name only, like Brett Lawrie was when the Brewers drafted him.

Coulter has already signed with the team, and was introduced earlier in the week as well.

4. Kevin Plawecki (NYM) - 35th overall

Alex Nelson of Amazin' Avenue posted a very good profile of Plawecki, and unfortunately he sounds like he could be a better real-life catcher than a fantasy producer based on how his wing profiles.

5. Steve Bean (STL) - 59th overall

You can read more about what has been said about Bean here, courtesy of Future Redbirds. He sounds like a decent enough bat, but there appears to be some doubt whether or not he will be able to stay at catcher or not.