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2019 MLB Draft Prep: The college catching glut

The Cubs could use some depth at catcher in the system, and there will be some good ones likely available.

Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

I’ve noted my perception of a catching glut in college ball. To do a pure and proper “study,” I’d need easy access to “where catchers used to bat” from in the past. I don’t have that data, nor am I seeking it out. When I think of catchers in a college lineup, I often expect them to hit seventh, eighth, or ninth. This mindset should be apparent regularly at non-elite schools with catchers not atop their conference leaderboards. However, I’m stunned at how many college catchers this season are hitting “top five” in lineups.

Adley Rutschman looks mask and shin guards in front of the next pick for 1.1 in June. The Oregon State backstop is far from alone. Shea Langeliers from Baylor is in the next grouping, even though he’ll miss some time with a hamate bone injury this season. I’ve noted Kansas’ Jaxx Groshans, even though he’s nowhere near the third-best college catching option, for now. Drew Millas from Missouri State will get selected rather early. I’ve seen about a dozen catchers this cycle I’d be totally good with for the Cubs on Day One (Rounds 1 and 2) or Two (Rounds 3-10) come June.

Could there be a reason college catchers are more adept at hitting than my memory tells me they used to be? Of course, my memory could be fauIty, but I don’t think that’s it. have a potential explanation for better catcher development, and it’s a reasonably contemporary idea. As pitchers are developing (high 80s used to be a valid pitching velocity) and shortstops are developing (MLB starters used to rarely be relied on for much power), catcher seems a reasonably branch to the tree of development.

Catchers have a role. They have a skillset. If a player is reasonably good, and can catch in an adequate fashion, why wouldn’t a scout take notice? If a three-year catcher hits somewhat well in a summer wood bat league, and can handle a pitching staff, he’s worth a draft choice. If he’s big enough to look like he can represent on offense in pro ball, he becomes a top-half of the draft type of choice.

That’s always been the case, though. My thought is that a number of players have assessed two virtual givens in baseball. Catching is the quickest way to MLB. And, with current sophisticated weight training, a body can be created through effort to create a good “catching body.” That wasn’t as easy 15 years ago as with current technology.

Not all catchers are heart of the order types, in college. It used to be the assumption that most were defense-only types. However, add a bit of bulk, work on the launch angle, and they can get their foot in the door. The Cubs’ last few first- or second-day catching choices were Michael Cruz (2016-7th round), Kyle Schwarber (2016-1st), Mark Zagunis (2014-3rd), and Chadd Krist (2012-9th round). I’d be unsurprised by a two-way catcher in the top six rounds in June. Valid choices are prevalent.

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People have odd reasons for liking or not liking players. I’m reminded of this as the Bryce Harper saga plateaued. He’s a very talented player. People like him, or don’t like him, for whatever reasons. Why someone chooses to “like” or “not like” certain players is an article I’m not leading with. We all have buttons, and if a player presses enough of them, they’re on the “naughty” list.

On or off the field. In contemporary college or minor league ball, I have no idea what most of the music used for walk-up selections are. I have current stuff I listen to, and not many people lean to The Dollyrots or Soraia as walk-up stuff. However, Vanderbilt’s JJ Bleday chooses Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion” for his walk-up track this year. Stores in memory bank. Bleday will be one of many valid options for consideration at 27. He’s not much of a runner, but is quick enough to man right field effectively. He’s patient at the plate, and doesn’t get cheated with his swings.

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My method of scouting would get me bounced from a scouting class, but I’m not in a scouting class. I’m listening to or watching college games, trying to figure out which guys seem to make sense for professional contracts. While “assessing from my computer” isn’t ideal from a big picture view, I learn things.

One name I’d seen on a list was Florida International’s third baseman Austin Shenton, so I prioritized a game of theirs. Against a quality pitcher, the game was a walk-fest. Shenton worked a walk in the first, then hit a homer over the scoreboard just before my feed gave out. Over the scoreboard is good.

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A bumps and bruises alert from the Stanford twinbill on Friday.

TCU’s top arm is Nick Lodolo. He’s a bit between my “first round options” and “second round options” page. Here’s a look from Friday.

Next inning.

Duke had a three-pitcher combined no-hitter on Friday, winning 15-0 against Penn State. Graeme Stinson was the starter for the Blue Devils. His velocity has been down, in the upper 80’s, but his name will still get called on Day One.

The center fielder chased this bomb far too aggressively. Especially considering the length. Hunter Bishop, the hitter, is on my “second round acceptable” options.

Feel free to ask questions on the draft below, whether about the catching glut, or not.