Sunday, August 9, 2009

Postseason Prospect Rankings: Catchers

As the playoffs rage on, my end-of-summer professional prospect rankings begin here with the catchers. Catcher was somewhat of a weak position on the Cape this summer, with really only two big-time MLB prospects playing in the league. And with four of the league's five best catchers playing on the same two teams, there were a lot of nights when you just didn't see a legitimate professional prospect behind the plate.

Here are the five best catchers in the Cape League in 2009. Remember, these rankings are based on what I perceive to be the professional potential of these players. A player's statistical performance in the Cape League this summer is only one factor in that analysis.

5. Mike Murray, Chatham/Wake Forest. Bats L Throws R. 6'0" 210. Westfield, N.J.

2009 Cape League Regular Season Stats: .347 BA/1 HR/5 RBI/.864 OPS

Murray was one of the more underrated players on the Cape despite his numbers, a guy who does not stand out the first time you watch him but who will grow on you over the course of an entire season. He just works hard and does a lot of different things well. Murray was the East Division's starting catcher in the All-Star Game, and he was one of Chatham's best and most consistent hitters all season. He hit .306 with six home runs and 37 RBIs for Wake Forest this spring, but was not selected in the MLB draft after his junior season. Murray hits from a wide base and is a line drive hitter with a smooth stroke. He is a good fastball hitter with a quick bat and while he has good bat control he showed a tendency to occasionally step in the bucket on good breaking balls. Murray moves well behind the plate and does a good job taking control on the field.

4. Cody Stanley, Cotuit/UNC Wilmington. Bats L Throws R. 5'11" 200. Clinton, N.C.

2009 Cape League Regular Season Stats: .299 BA/1 HR/11 RBI/.852 OPS

Stanley, the West Division's starting catcher in the All-Star Game, was solid all season for Cotuit and continued to catch plenty of games even after the more highly-touted Cameron Rupp arrived from Texas after the College World Series. Stanley was one of the top prospects in the New England Collegiate Baseball League in summer 2008, and he had a very strong spring season in 2009, hitting .332 with 12 home runs and 56 RBIs for UNC Wilmington. Stanley looks a little stiff at the plate but he has good balance and is able to drive the ball consistently. Defensively, he is athletic behind the plate and is also tough, unafraid to block the plate on close plays with his stocky build. Stanley also has a strong arm.

3. Ben McMahan, Y-D/Florida. Bats R/Throws R. 6'0" 205. Windermere, Fla.

2009 Cape League Regular Season Stats: .241 BA/3 HR/8 RBI/.708 OPS

McMahan was the best freshman catcher on the Cape this summer and he split time with Micah Gibbs on the league's best team. McMahan was a highly-touted prospect coming out of high school but saw limited action at Florida this spring and hit just .100 with 1 HR and 2 RBIs in only 18 games for the Gators. McMahan has a slightly long swing and was prone to strikeouts this summer, but he looks smooth at the plate and drives the ball when he connects. McMahan does have quick hands so he has the potential to cut down on the strikeouts if he is able to shorten up. McMahan is very strong defensively and consistently makes athletic plays behind the plate.

2. Cameron Rupp, Cotuit/Texas. Bats R/Throws R. 6'2" 235. Plano, Texas.

2009 Cape League Regular Season Stats: .317 BA/4 HR/12 RBI/.973 OPS

Rupp joined Cotuit about halfway through the season after the College World Series and was very impressive as a designated hitter and a catcher. His reputation clearly preceded him as Rupp was selected to the All-Star team despite only being in the league for about two weeks before it was played. Rupp was an NCBWA and Louisville Slugger's freshman All-American in 2008, and he led the national runners-up in home runs in 2009 when he hit 11 to go with his .292 batting average and 46 RBIs. Rupp always swings hard and generates big-time power with his slight uppercut swing, yet he is able to keep his strikeouts down. He has kind of an awkward stance in which he is hunched forward, but it seems to work for him. Rupp also has a tremendous arm behind the plate. He will likely go in the first few rounds of the draft next June.

1. Micah Gibbs, Y-D/LSU. Bats S/Throws R. 5'11" 223. Pflugerville, Texas.

2009 Cape League Regular Season Stats: .212 BA/3 HR/9 RBIs/.659 OPS

Despite his subpar statistics in a limited sample this summer, Gibbs was the best catching prospect on the Cape this season and one of the best all-around prospects in the league. An advanced player at a premium position, and a switch-hitter no less, he is very likely to be a first-round pick in the draft next June. Gibbs was a Baseball America and freshman All-American in 2008 and was the starting catcher for Team USA last summer. He had a slightly disappointing season for the national champions this spring but still hit .294 with six home runs and 42 RBIs. Gibbs has power from both sides of the plate but looks a lot better from the left side. His left-handed swing is smooth and effortless and he drives the ball consistently. Defensively, Gibbs moves tremendously well behind the plate, and he also has a strong arm. You will definitely see Gibbs catching in the major leagues someday.

Coming Monday: First Baseman


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