Blue Jays Will Need To Re-Stock Catching Cupboard This Amateur Draft

by Clayton Richer | Posted on Sunday, January 12th, 2014
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Alex Jackson

The Toronto Blue Jays may look to replenish the catching cupboard this upcoming amateur draft after the recent losses of J.P. Arencibia, Travis d’Arnaud and Yan Gomes. The Jays brain trust will have the 9th and 11th selection in the 1st round of the upcoming amateur draft. The 11th round selection is compensation for failing to sign last years 1st rounder, Phil Bickford.

The Jays are lacking catching depth while the likes of A.J. Jimenez, Derrick Chung, Jack Murphy and Sean Ochinko perfect their craft in the minors. Jimenez is likely the only backstop who projects to eventually see time with the big club. He is more of a defensive specialist who lacks power and may be better suited as a back-up at the major league level. The 23-year old Jimenez has 18 career minor league home runs in 1465 career plate appearances.

If the Jays do plan on grabbing a backstop early in the draft, there are 4 potential catchers ranked in the Top 50 by MLB.com.

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Alex Jackson
Rank: 3
Rancho Bernardo HS (Calif.), Senior
Height: 6’2″, Weight: 215
Position: C/OF
DOB: 12/25/1995
Bats: R, Throws: R
Twitter: @AlexJaxxsun10
Commitment: Oregon

Scouting Grades* (future): Hit: 60 | Power: 60 | Run: 50 | Arm: 60 | Field: 50 | Overall: 60 Rancho Bernardo High in San Diego has produced four first-round picks in the last two decades: Jaime Jones (1995), Matt Wheatland (2000), Scott Heard (2000) and Cole Hamels (2002). Jackson, Rancho Bernardo’s latest star, might get picked earlier than any of them because he’s an offensively gifted catcher with plus arm strength to boot.

His standout tool is his right-handed power, which he generates with bat speed and strength. He has enough feel for hitting that he could produce .280 batting averages in the Major Leagues. To do that, he’ll need to curb a tendency for his swing that gets long at times which causes him to miss hittable fastballs.

Jackson’s arm gives him a third future plus tool. He moves better than most catchers, though his receiving will need to improve if he’s to stick behind the plate. If not, he has enough athleticism and bat to make it as a right fielder. He has committed to Oregon.

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Kyle Schwarber
Rank: 14
Indiana, Junior
Height: 6’0″, Weight: 230
Position: C
DOB: 3/5/1993
Bats: L, Throws: R
Prev. drafted: Never

Scouting Grades* (future): Hit: 60 | Power: 65 | Run: 40 | Arm: 40 | Field: 40 | Overall: 60Schwarber powered Indiana to its first College World Series appearance and first outright Big Ten Conference regular-season championship since 1932 last year, slugging a school-record 18 homers and ranking third in NCAA Division I in that category. Undrafted and relatively unknown coming out of an Ohio high school, he has since established himself as the premier power hitter in the 2014 college Draft class.

He offers lots of strength and bat speed from the left side of the plate, and he’s not a one-dimensional hitter either. Schwarber controls the strike zone well and repeatedly barrels balls, so he should hit for a high average as well.

His offensive ability could make him a star as a catcher — provided that he can stay behind the plate. While he moves well for his size, his throwing and receiving both grade as below average and could prompt a move to first base or the outfield.

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Max Pentecost
Rank: 20
Kennesaw State, Junior
Height: 6’2″, Weight: 190
Position: C
DOB: 3/10/1993
Bats: R, Throws: R
Prev. drafted: 2011, 7th (234) – TEX

Scouting Grades* (future): Hit: 55 | Power: 55 | Run: 50 | Arm: 55 | Field: 50 | Overall: 55 Though Pentecost required surgery to repair a stress fracture in his throwing arm as a high school senior, the Rangers still drafted him in the seventh round in 2011 and nearly signed him. His decision to attend Kennesaw State could make him the first college catcher selected in 2014, as he’s coming off a summer in which he was MVP of the Cape Cod League and led the premier college summer circuit with a .962 OPS.

Pentecost is a rare catcher who could have average or better tools across the board. He has a chance to hit for solid average and power. He has a quick right-handed bat and while his hitting skills have been more evident than his pop, he did hit six homers on the Cape with wood bats after totaling just three as a sophomore for the Owls.

His receiving skills still need work, though Pentecost should be able to remain behind the plate. He has the requisite arm strength for a catcher, though he can improve his accuracy. He runs better than most backstops and has average speed overall.

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Jakson Reetz
Rank: 47
Norris HS (Neb.), Senior
Height: 6’1″, Weight: 195
Position: C
DOB: 1/3/1996
Bats: R, Throws: R
Twitter: @jakson_1
Commitment: Nebraska

Scouting Grades* (future): Hit: 55 | Power: 50 | Run: 45 | Arm: 60 | Field: 55 | Overall: 55 Nebraska hasn’t produced a high school player drafted in the top five rounds since 1996. En route to pitching parts of seven seasons in the Majors, Buddy Carlyle went in the second round — about the same area that Reetz figures to go in June. He made a name for himself during the summer, earning MVP recognition at the Perfect Game All-America Classic and batting .435 with a team-high five extra-base hits to help the U.S. national team win the 18-and-under World Cup in Taiwan.

While there’s some doubt as to whether top-rated prep catching prospect Alex Jackson will stay behind the plate, there are no such concerns with Reetz. The Nebraska recruit is athletic for a backstop and moves well behind the plate. Once he gets accustomed to handling pro-caliber pitchers, he should become a solid receiver with a plus arm.

Reetz can hit, too. He has a quick bat that produces line drives to all fields, and he’s strong enough to develop average power. As a bonus, he runs better than most catchers.

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Click here to see the entire list of projected Top 50 Prospects by MLB.com

Time will tell if Alex Anthopoulos looks for  a catcher early in the draft. It appears there are some worthy candidates if that is the direction the Jays and company decide to explore.

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Clayton Richer
About the Author

Clayton Richer is an MLB scribe from north of the border with a slight bias for the Toronto Blue Jays. Clayton has also been the shop-keeper at Baseball Hot Corner since the sites inception in 2012. Follow and interact with Clayton on Twitter @MLBHotCorner or @ClaytonRicher







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