As you have already seen so far this week, we're taking a comprehensive look at one position each week in preparation for the fantasy baseball season. That look would not be complete without a look at the future as well, and with that in mind we will be providing a top prospect list at each position also. While I won't be ranking the same amount of prospect at each position, the goal is to provide enough that will be fantasy relevant in both shallow and deeper formats.
These rankings represent how I view the players at this time, and speak to their value long-term. This means that players like Kyle Schwarber, who has a higher upside but is a bit further away than some of the other prospects, is ranked higher here based on what his future potential is, rather than his 2015 value.
1. Blake Swihart (Red Sox)
Catcher may be the only position where our top prospect for the 2015 season will also likely be the top prospect at the position long-term as well. Brian Creagh will have a full profile of Swihart a little later today.
2. Kyle Schwarber (Cubs)
The questions about Schwarber's defense are fairly rampant, and in all likelihood he ends up somewhere else besides behind the plate. That said, if you get a couple of seasons of token qualification a la Evan Gattis, he can potentially be a fantasy monster. He'll head to AA to start 2015, and if he stays behind the plate may not be up until late 2016.
3. Jorge Alfaro (Rangers)
We've been hearing about the #legend for years now, and the power/speed combination he can provide from behind the plate could make him an easy top five option at the position if it all clicks. He reached AA in 2014, and will likely return there to start 2015.
4. Gary Sanchez (Yankees)
If you feel like you've heard about Sanchez for a long time, you'd be right given that he signed in 2009 and has slowly plugged his way toward the majors. He's completely blocked in the majors with Brian McCann still under contract for four more seasons, but Sanchez should be able to keep his catcher eligibility for at least a couple seasons despite his defensive shortcomings.
5. Francisco Mejia (Indians)
Mejia emerged after his 2013 campaign with a lot of helium for a player who had only appeared at the complex level. He still has not debuted in a full season league, but with even better reports this offseason coupled with a strong performance at the plate, you may be running out of time to buy in before he really explodes. He could be a four-category contributor down the line, and if plays well at Low-A this year, could be right near the top of the list.
6. Max Pentecost (Blue Jays)
Pentecost was signed by the Blue Jays with the 11th overall pick, and is widely viewed as a prospect that may have at least average grades on all five tools. Interestingly, he reminds me a little bit of Russell Martin in terms of his profile, in that Martin generally doesn't provide elite production in any category, but provides at least some production in all categories. He's a long way from the majors right now, but can be a top 10 catcher in the future.
7. Kevin Plawecki (Mets)
Plawecki is currently blocked in New York by Travis d'Arnaud, but it seems likely that one of them is moved at some point down the line and both end up with starting jobs. Plawecki is just about ready for a major league job, and it's possible that the Mets could use both together to help ensure that they both stay healthy and productive.
8. Andrew Susac (Giants)
The best case scenario for Susac is that the Giants decide that it's nuts to let their best player catch 130 games a year, and have Susac start a majority of the games behind the plate. He's potentially the backup catcher in San Francisco this year, which should be good for 40-50 games. He's probably an NL-only play right now, but he's a nice speculative play if you were looking to hedge on how much Posey plays first base.
9. Reese McGuire (Pirates)
McGuire gets a lot more rave reviews about his defense than his offensive potential, but it's not like he is a zero at the plate either. He should provide solid but not spectacular production at the plate, with a decent batting average and some power.
10. Chance Sisco (Orioles)
Sisco has hit for a high average at every stop so far in his professional career, and is expected to provide a good batting average along with some power production as he matures. The potential for a .280-.290 hitter is there, although it may not happen every season. He's likely at least three full seasons away from the majors, and also has the potential that he may have to move from behind the plate.
11. Peter O'Brien (Diamondbacks)
Look, the Diamondbacks insist that they believe he can catch long-term, and even if he only gets into enough games to maintain the positional eligibility, that means he's still a catcher for us. There's a lot of power potential there, and at catcher that could be enough to move him solidly into the top 10 at the position in the major leagues. The fact that he may really be a first baseman or an outfielder keeps him down this list though, as it's not a guarantee that he stays behind the plate long-term.
12. J.T. Realmuto (Marlins)
Realmuto made his debut in 2014, but isn't necessarily expected to return to the majors to start 2015 with the Marlins. The profile itself doesn't jump off the page, but a catcher who doesn't kill your batting average and provides double-digit home run totals has value in a lot of leagues.
13. Tyler Marlette (Mariners)
Marlette hit 17 home runs last year between High-A and Double-A in just 90 games, and while offensive numbers always get a bit of a sideways look when your home park was High Desert, Marlette has been expected to hit for power for a while now. It will be interesting to see if he can repeat that performance at AA, and whether he can break 100 games played for the first time in his career.
14. Julian Leon (Dodgers)
A personal favorite of mine, Leon could be an above-average hitter in the future, but has not played outside of short-season ball yet and also has questions about his development as a defender. If he goes out and crushes a full-season league in 2015, he could move into the top 5.
15. Justin O'Connor (Rays)
O'Conner had a great year at the plate between High-A and AA, and will get to the majors on the strength of his defensive profile. There's the potential for a top 15-top 20 catcher in most seasons, with some power potential and a reasonable batting average. Whether that will occur on a consistent basis is anyone's guess at the moment though, and since we don't get credit for his defensive prowess, he remains low on the list.
He's been handed a starting job at the major league level, but the questions around his bat are enough that he may not be viable even with a guarantee of playing time.
Other Prospects of Note
Jakson Reetz (Nationals) - Reetz was the last cut on my list of 15 here, simply given how far away he is as a 2014 draftee. There's a lot of potential offense for Reetz, but as a catcher it may take another four-plus seasons for him to get to the majors.
Victor Caratini (Cubs) - Acquired by the Cubs for Emilio Bonifacio and James Russell, Caratini has shown a decent eye at the plate, but the fact that he is being converted to the position makes his timeline a bit sketchy right now. If the conversion doesn't work, his value will take a hit with a move to third or the outfield.
Austin Hedges (Padres) - The big name on most prospect lists, Hedges has gotten rave reviews about his defense while he was still in high school. However, he struggled pretty mightily last year at AA, and there seem to be questions about what his long-term upside at the plate could be. He'll definitely make the majors, and probably have a long career. He just may have a similar value to Jose Molina if his bat doesn't come out as they hope.
Christian Bethancourt (Braves) - Look, if you're in a deep league where any starting catcher has value, he's worth a look. But the hard part with him at this point is that he may not hit for average or power depending on how pitchers view him moving forward, and the potential for a year where you were better off taking a player that didn't appear in a game is possible.