Today will be the first in a series of articles looking at the state of each position down on the farm (including RHSP/RHRP and LHSP/LHRP). I will work my way around the diamond before getting to the pitchers, so we are starting with “2” for those of you scorekeepers at home.
While Devin Mesoraco has a very good shot at being in the Major Leagues next year from the start, he still qualifies as a prospect so he leads this group. The Reds future backstop is arguably the best catching prospect in the minor leagues and was just named the top position prospect in the International League by Baseball America. While with the Bats he posted a .289/.371/.484 line with 52 walks and 83 strikeouts. Defensively his above average throwing arm threw out 26% of attempted base stealers. He has the makings of an All Star catcher with big power for the position and a strong all around bat as well as the ability to be at least an average defensive catcher.
As if one stud catching prospect weren’t enough, the Reds landed another one in the 2010 first round when they had Yasmani Grandal fall in their lap after there were rumors he was going inside the Top 5 up until the day of the draft. Grandal, like Mesoraco, found himself among the best position prospects in the two leagues that he was in this season as rated by Baseball America (3rd best position prospect in the Southern League & 6th best position prospect in the California League). His bat is more advanced than his defense is at this point though. He put up a combined .305/.401/.500 line with 59 walks and 97 strikeouts on the season between A+ and AA. Defensively, his arm is slightly above average and he threw out 36% of the runners who tried to steal against him this past season. He did have 19 passed balls on the season and the reports on his defense were quite a bit worse than the ones on him coming out of the draft. He is expected to remain at the catcher position in the long run, but his ceiling defensively seems to be more that of an average backstop than an above average one that some had originally pegged him as coming out of Miami.
Tucker Barnhart finds himself well behind the top two guys, but it isn’t because of his defense at all. Barnhart is a very advanced defensive catcher at the young age of 20. Barnhart had just two errors and just six passed balls all season while being the main catcher for the Dayton Dragons. He also threw out 47% of attempted base stealers with his above average arm. He impressed so much that Rawlings handed him the Gold Glove for the entire minor leagues at the catcher position. At the plate he has a strong plate approach but doesn’t have much power. That won’t hold him back at the position though, especially if he can continue to show a strong approach and defender well behind the dish. His line of .273/.344/.387 with 37 walks and 59 strikeouts suggests he could be very Ryan Hanigan like, except at a younger age when he reaches the big leagues. A solid hitter without much power who is an outstanding defender.
Behind those top three guys, there are several players who have shown some things here and there, but have plenty of questions on their resumes still. Kevin Coddington is viewed as a good defender behind the plate and has a track record that backs that up. He really struggled in Carolina to begin the year, hitting just .202 over 140 plate appearances before swapping levels with Grandal. Once Coddington found himself in the California League, he hit .362/.402/.521 in 104 plate appearances. In both cases, his sample size was limited and I don’t think that either showing represents what he really is at the plate and he is more likely a guy who falls well in the middle of his two lines. Mark Fleury has shown himself to have an interesting bat, hitting .278/.390/.414 for Bakersfield this season with 30 walks and 42 strikeouts. However there are questions about his defensive abilities. He only caught 44 games this year and had 13 passed balls and threw out 29% of attempted base stealers. Yovan Gonzalez spent most of his year in Billings and threw out an incredible 52% of attempted base stealers and had 6 passed balls in 40 games. He hit just .262/.320/.355 in the hitter friendly Pioneer League though, so his bat remains rather skeptical. However it’s worth noting that the bat is usually the last thing to develop for catching prospects.
I have to think that the Reds catching prospects at the very least put them among the best situations for all teams in baseball with two Top 100 prospects in baseball at the position and a third guy who a well known outstanding defender who has a little bit of a bat as well. For a position that is so difficult to develop an every day regular guy, for the Reds to have three players who look like they have a chance to be that is something special. I would give the Reds an A- grade for the position due to some depth as well as top end talent that is ready or close to very ready to contribute at the Major League level.