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2021 MLB Draft Prep: Week 6, and thoughts on non-catching catchers

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And other results from the past week of college baseball.

Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images

My draft look starts with a highlight from Sunday, March 21. The Michigan State Spartans led the Michigan Wolverines 7-0 into the bottom of the ninth. The next three outs didn’t arrive, as the Wolverines pounced for eight in the ninth. Jimmy Obertop had the walkoff honors, and video exists.

Obertop entered the season as the Wolverines’ highly-ranked catcher, with second- or third-round possibilities. The bat started a bit slowly, with the Big Ten delaying its season until March, but he has crushed offensively, taking the Illini deep twice on the weekend of the 21st. The general line of questioning for the week. How should a pro organization draft-assess a catcher who isn’t catching?

The MLB draft is about assessing information. Whichever team is in discussion will have a few players atop their board, and the further down their board, players will tend to get rather similar. The upside of the college right-hander? The repertoire of the power five lefty? The versatility of the shortstop that lacks a bit of power? Or the guy that mashes. On the day of the draft War Room, five or six guys might appear quite similar in value for a certain round. When the Cubs make their third choice at 93, quite a few players will be under consideration, and justifiably so.

My current list has Obertop as a possible selection at 93. If his defensive versatility is “first base or DH,” he’s unlikely to be worth a third-round pick. However, college squads prioritize starting lineups based on “who will help us win” more than “pro projections in four seasons.” Obertop is far from the only catcher in that boat. Wes Clark is among the best hitters in the very-respected Southeastern Conference. His listed position is catcher, but he’s more of a designated hitter/backup catcher for South Carolina. The bat plays in the second round. The glove plays much later. Accurate talent-assessment is unequal parts of “getting the essential guys right” and “disregarding the players who aren’t really as good as they’re perceived.”

The teams that do both well figure to have a rather lofty edge over teams that chase fool’s gold, or are surprised by late risers. Since most teams will draft before the Cubs, and some will have more choices (whether due to free agent compensation, market-size compensation or both), the Cubs will need to locate ways to gain ground in their selections. The teams that used to only select two or three valid players in the summer draft are long gone. All 30 MLB teams are now much better than all but the elite teams from only a few years ago.

Northern Illinois won three of four in their opening weekend, and were rewarded with a trip to play four in Oxford, Ohio. Potential first-round arm Sam Bachman was scheduled for the lid-lifter on Friday. Presumably, the Cubs ought to want to have a scout at about every Bachman start, as the 6-1 right-hander from the Indianapolis area tosses near 100 miles per hour. (Is he a first-round guy? Will it even matter putting him on a second-round preference board?) There’s no TV or radio of the game. As such, if information is to be pulled from the game, someone has to be there. The information obtained between now and July is to be measured against the information gathered by the other 29 teams. Whichever ones have better information grab the advantage over the laggards.

Midweek, I was listening to a Duke game against North Carolina Greensboro. UNCG had started 11-8, and they started Brendan Collins, a hard-throwing right-hander, who was throwing 94-96 against the Blue Devils. In the second inning, he loaded the bases on three walks. If your interest is in velocity you ought to be fascinated by Collins, as a pro player development staff ought to be able to add another tick to the velocity. However, as to getting the Pitch Lab to getting him to throw strikes? Which round of Draft Pick are you willing to surrender to add him? Collins walked five over seven outs in a start in Durham. For me? He qualifies as a 15th-round guy. As Collins was lifted, the in-attendance scouts left.

Here is D1 Baseball’s Friday review.

Here’s my current draft spreadsheet, by round.

And here’s some video of various draft prospects.

Kumar Rocker shows his defensive chops.

Christian Franklin had a fairly good Friday.

Notre Dame’s Niko Kavadas has no defensive value. At all. This is him hitting against a good lefty. What say you?

Freddy Rojas Jr. extends two streaks and takes a pitcher win away from Dallas Baptist’s Domenick Hamel.

Chase Petty is a high-upside prep arm.

Notre Dame with a Saturday walk-off.