The 2011 version of MLB.com's Top 50 Prospects list
will be unveiled on Tuesday, Jan. 25, on MLB.com as well as on a one-hour show on MLB Network, airing at 9 p.m. ET. Leading up to that, MLB.com will take a look at baseball's top 10 prospects at each position.
Finding good catching isn't the easiest thing to do. Growing your own seems to be an even harder task. Some can hit, but either can't handle the defensive rigors of the position or get moved to keep that offensive production from wearing down. Others are stalwarts with the glove, but don't hit enough to profile as everyday players. But as the 2011 season looms ahead, the prospect landscape is pretty
catching-rich. There are a number of future big league
backstops to get excited about. Here are the Top 10:
1. Jesus Montero, Yankees: There's been little doubt
about the bat, even though he got off to a very rough start
to his 2010 season, his first taste of Triple-A. But after
stumbling out of the gate, Montero hit .351/.396/.684 in the second half, putting him back on the short list of top
hitting prospects in the game. The question, however, has
been more about his defense than his bat. Can Montero be an
everyday catcher? Do the Yankees want him to be? While he's
worked hard on that part of the game, it remains to be seen
if it's enough to stay at the position and become an
offensive-minded backstop. He'll have the opportunity to hit
his way onto the Bombers' Opening Day roster this spring.
2. Wil Myers, Royals: Myers is another who fits into
the "great bat, but can he catch?" group. There's no doubt
he can hit, after a .324/.429/.533 line over 637 career
plate appearances. He's got great plate discipline and
should hit for plenty of power. He's even got decent speed.
Having played a number of positions in high school, he's
still learning how to catch, but there are those who feel he won't be able to stay behind the plate. He is athletic enough with plenty of arm strength to handle a move to the outfield should the Royals decide to go that route.
3. Gary Sanchez, Yankees: After getting $3 million -- a Yankees record for a teenager -- to sign out of the
Dominican, Sanchez started out his career in the U.S. like
gangbusters. He hit .353/.419/.597 in the Gulf Coast League
to earn a late bump up to short-season Staten Island, where
he held his own over 16 games. He's got all the makings of
a solid defensive catcher as well. When all is said and done, he might have more upside than the other talented catching prospects in the Yankees' system. He'll hit full-season ball this year at age 18.
4. Wilin Rosario, Rockies: The only thing slowing
Rosario's ascent to the big leagues is injury. After being a Texas League All-Star and Futures Game participant, he tore his ACL, ending his season and putting the timely start of 2011 in jeopardy. He's done very well with his rehab, and the Rockies think he won't be too delayed this season as he moves up to Triple-A. He can hit, hit for power and has an arm that allowed him to throw out 40.6 percent of would-be basestealers. The catchers in Colorado are merely keeping the position warm until Rosario is deemed ready.
5. Devin Mesoraco, Reds: The 2007 first-round pick
battled injuries over his first few years as a pro, and his middling performance kind of forced him off the prospect
map. Then he broke out in '10, playing at three levels and
showing the offensive capabilities the Reds thought he had
when they drafted him out of high school. He can hit for
average and power (.302/.377/.587 in '10) and while he
still needs to work on his overall receiving, he's got an
outstanding arm (he threw out 41 percent of basestealers
last season). He finished last year in Triple-A, and that's where he'll start '11. Don't be surprised to see him in
Cincy at some point this season.
Click on the player's name to view his complete Minor League stats.
6. J.P. Arencibia, Blue Jays: If first impressions
are indeed the most important, then Blue Jays fans must love Arencibia. In his first Major League game, he banged out four hits -- a double and two homers -- against the Rays. His power is his best tool -- he's got a .507 career slugging percentage in the Minors, .626 last season. While he's definitely an offensive-minded catcher, he does have some defensive tools to work with. He should get every chance to show what he can do as Toronto's starting catcher during the 2011 season.
7. Wilson Ramos, Nationals: Ramos has long been
thought of as one of the better catching prospects in the
game, but that Joe Mauer fellow wasn't exactly about to
yield the position in Minnesota. So the Twins included Ramos in the deal that netted them closer Matt Capps last July. He got a little big league time last May filling in for Mauer, but he really showed what he could do in September and October with the Nats, hitting .292 over 48 at-bats. He's got a little pop as well. But his real calling card is his glove work. Ramos has a very good receiver who will only get better as he gets used to catching a big league staff. He threw out 50
percent of basestealers in the Minors last season. For now,
he's going to split time with (and learn from) Ivan
Rodriguez, but the everyday job will be his before long.
8. Austin Romine, Yankees: Montero might get most of
the ink because of his bat, but it's Romine many believe is the better all-around catcher. While he doesn't have the
offensive upside of his counterpart, he's no slouch at the
plate, with decent extra-base pop that should improve as he
matures and gains more experience at the upper levels. He's
a better catcher than Montero, with a strong arm and pretty
solid receiving abilities. He'll be in Triple-A continuing
to hone his craft. If Montero shows the ability to catch in
the big leagues, Romine could get stuck. But some see him as the everyday answer behind the plate, at least until Gary Sanchez is ready.
9. Travis d'Arnaud, Blue Jays: Catching depth is
something every organization strives for, and the Blue Jays
have some. Arencibia might be the guy for now, but d'Arnaud
could eventually supplant him as the everyday catcher in
Toronto. In his first season with the organization after
coming over in the Roy Halladay deal, he missed a chunk of
time with a back issue, but it's not expected to be a
long-term problem. He's got a great arm and is very agile
behind the plate. While his offensive numbers haven't
consistently stood out to date, he's got good bat speed and
a solid approach that should lead to good results. It might
take him a couple of years, but he profiles to be a better
all-around backstop than Arencibia in the future.
10. Derek Norris, Nationals: Following the 2009
season, when he hit 23 homers, drove in 84 runs and had a
.926 OPS, Norris was named MLB.com's Class A Hitter of the
Year. Things didn't go as well in 2010. He didn't really get started until close to mid-May following hamate bone surgery in his left hand, and he never really found his stroke, finishing with a .235/.419/.419 line. He did bounce back with a solid showing in the Arizona Fall League, which should help him move up to Double-A. He's got tremendous plate discipline and excellent power when he's 100 percent. While he's more of an offensive-minded catcher, he's improved his defense considerably and has thrown out better than 40 percent of basestealers over the past two seasons. With a strong '11, he could make things interesting with Ramos in Washington in '12.
To be eligible for the list, a player must have rookie eligibility. To qualify for rookie status, a player must not have exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues, or accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club or clubs during the 25-player-limit period, excluding time on the disabled list or in military service.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMayoB3 on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.