On Friday — in honor of the upcoming amateur draft — I checked in on some of the players selected in the second round of the 2017 draft. Today, I’m going to review some of the catchers selected in the first five rounds of the same draft.
More specifically, let’s look at four of the top hitting catchers so far in 2018 — because we all know how hard it can be to find offence from a backstop. For this exercise, I’m going to omit Arizona’s Dalton Varsho because I recently wrote about him.
M.J. Melendez, C, Royals: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this might be one of the biggest steals of the 2017 draft… and Melendez could be the perfect player to eventually take away the on-field leadership mantle from Salvador Perez. Just 19, this second-year player is showing solid offensive skills in low-A ball despite 44 strikeouts in 34 games (30% K-rate). Melendez hits the ball hard and 22 of his 36 hits have gone for extra bases — including eight homers in a league that doesn’t see a ton of power. His walk rate of 8% is not bad given his age. His caught stealing rate of 26% is respectable but not outstanding. He’s made a whopping eight errors in 22 games behind the plate and is definitely still working on the finer aspects of fielding the position despite his above-average athleticism and canon of an arm. I believe he’ll eventually show enough skill behind the plate to stick there if he keeps hitting like he has recently. Overall, there is work to be done but it’s hard to find a teenaged catching prospect showing this kind of offence in full season ball.
Connor Wong, C, Dodgers: Wong began his college career as a shortstop and has played multiple positions so he’s not that far off being Austin Barnes (who I championed for years as a prospect before he finally gained a following and had MLB success). He has, though, mostly played behind the plate as a pro to continue to work on the nuances of the position. And by all accounts, he’s doing well enough to eventually play back there at least part-time as a big leaguer. His offence, though, has been very good — at least on the surface. He’s already in high-A ball but he’s also playing in a league that tends to boost offensive numbers. Wong, 22, is hitting .293 with 10 home runs in 35 games. The downside to his numbers is the BB-K rate of 10-57 in 35 games. The 37% K-rate is not going to allow him to hit for average in the upper levels of the minors, let alone the majors. There is definite promise here but he needs a lot more polish.
Luis Campusano, C, Padres: The Padres took two high school catchers in the first 69 picks of the draft but Campusano is the more advanced of the pair (along with Blake Hunt, who was actually given the larger signing bonus). Campusano has held his own at the plate in low-A ball as a teenager. He’s hitting .282 and has struck out just 17 times in 32 games. He has promising raw power but he has yet to tap into it in game situations and has just five extra base hits to go with 28 singles. Still, there is lots of time for the pop to develop. Behind the plate, Campusano has improved by leaps and bounds — including a respectable 28% caught stealing rate. Despite the positives, there is still a lot of work to be done and he’s only catching about 50% of the time while also seeing time as the designated hitter.
Riley Adams, C, Blue Jays: Considered one of the top hitting college catchers available in the 2017 draft, Toronto jumped on him in the third round. His defence was generally panned as an amateur but he’s made huge strides as a pro and now looks like a sure lock to stick behind the plate, especially when considering his offensive potential. Adams is tall for a catcher so he’s taken longer to learn how to effectively and efficiently control his body but he’s also a hard worker. He’s utilized his strong arm to throw out 34% of base runners attempting to steal so far in 2018. The Jays challenged him with an assignment to high-A ball to open the year and he struggled early. However, after posting a .527 OPS in April he’s had a .773 OPS in May, and has seen his BB-K go from 3-24 to 9-12. The Florida State League tends to suppress power and Adams has gone deep just twice but 11 of his 29 hits have been doubles. His numbers appear somewhat pedestrian right now but look for a strong summer from this catching prospect.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.