One of the biggest positional needs in the Chicago Cubs organization is behind the plate. With a lack of depth at a premium position, this is one area that should be addressed in the 2013 MLB draft. There are three catchers who have separated themselves from the rest of the class. Reese McGuire, Jon Denney and Nick Ciuffo, all high school catchers, are almost locks to go in the first round of the 2013 MLB draft. They are all projected to go somewhere between picks seven and 30 and, with the Cubs selecting second and 41st, they will all but likely miss out on the big three.
Projecting high school players to remain behind the plate is very difficult. Here are 10 players, eight of whom are from the high school ranks, who should be able to remain at their current position and should be on the Cubs radar:
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Chris Okey, Eustis HS (FL)
A very good defensive catcher with a strong arm and excellent footwork behind the plate, Okey is a polished player who is a two-time gold medal winner for U18 Team USA. There is a chance he may not be available when the Cubs pick at 41 in the 2013 MLB draft, but if he is, he should be high on their list. At 6’-1” and 190 pounds, he makes consistent contact from the right side and has a very good approach at the plate. Over 29 games this season, he is hitting .417 with six doubles, four home runs, 29 RBI and has drawn 17 walks to eight strikeouts for a .528 OBP/.679 SLG. He is also an excellent athlete with good speed, having gone a perfect 16-for-16 in stolen base attempts this season. Committed to Clemson.
Andrew Knapp, California
Arguably the best college catcher available in the 2013 MLB draft, the switch-hitting Knapp has a lot of potential at the plate but is still inconsistent behind it. He does have a strong arm and is a good athlete, he just needs to settle down and rely on his instincts rather than trying to rush everything. He has a nice stroke from both sides of the plate and makes consistent, hard contact. Over 43 games this season, he is hitting .344 with 11 doubles, six home runs, 34 RBI and has drawn 19 walks for a .421 OBP/.521 SLG. I wouldn’t use a second-round pick on him, but if he is there the third time around, he could be a good value pick.
Jeremy Martinez, Mater Dei HS (CA)
Like Okey, Martinez is a polished player who also is a two-time gold medal winner for U18 Team USA. Very good defensively, the 5’-11”, 200-pound right-hander also performs well with the bat. While the power hasn’t shown up yet, he has a very good approach at the plate and squares up well, making consistent contact to all fields. Over 21 games this season, he is hitting .386 and has drawn 12 walks to just four strikeouts for a .513 OBP. He should be available at 41, and his high make up fit’s the organization’s philosophy. Committed to Southern California.
Brian Navarreto, Arlington Country Day HS (FL)
Playing for the same high school as Cubs top prospect Javier Baez, the 6’-4”, 220-pound Navarreto also shares the same fiery personality. A very good defensive catcher, Navarreto has a lot of offensive potential due to his size. He has a very strong, accurate arm with a quick release and has great footwork behind the plate due to his above-average athleticism — he has been clocked at 6.88 in the 60. He hit .512 as a junior with 16 doubles and 12 home runs, showing raw power from the right side. Not as polished as Okey or Martinez, he may have the higher ceiling of the two, but there may be some make up concerns as he recently punched a player in the face during a bench-clearing brawl. Committed to Jacksonville.
Stuart Turner, Ole Miss
A JUCO transfer from LSU-Eunice, the 6’-2”, 220-pound right-hander won the Rawlings Gold Glove and was an Academic All American. He has huge power potential due to his size and has a good approach at the plate. Over 45 games this season, he is hitting .376 with 13 doubles, five home runs, 43 RBI and a .439 OBP/.567 SLG. Solid on both sides of the plate, he could be a nice pick in the third or fourth rounds of the 2013 MLB draft.
Corey Simpson, Sweeny HS (TX)
More offense than defense, the 6’-3”, 220-pound Simpson does make for a big target behind the plate and is solid enough defensively to be given a shot to stick behind the plate. Offense is where he shines, though, as he is hitting .578 over 24 games with 11 doubles, 10 home runs, 39 RBI and has drawn 16 walks for a .659 OBP/1.183 SLG. He has tremendous power from the right side and has a good understanding of the strike zone — as many catchers seem to possess. Committed to Houston.
Matthew Thaiss, Jackson Memorial HS (NJ)
A left-handed hitter, the 6’-1”, 190-pound Thaiss has some power behind his swing, and he also has a good approach at the plate. Over 28 games as a junior, he hit seven home runs and drew 23 walks for a .481 OBP. He makes consistent contact and should develop even more power as he develops. Defensively, he has a strong, accurate arm with a quick release (1.87-1.91 pop times). He took on catching full time as a junior and threw out 11 base runners on throws that were barely four feet off the ground. He is a good athlete and a leader on the field. Committed to Virginia.
Arden Pabst, Harvard-Westlake HS (CA)
A strong defensive catcher who has had a ton of experience catching power arms as he was a teammate of 2012 first round picks, Max Fried and Lucas Giolito, as well as 2014 possible first rounder Jake Flaherty, Pabst is emerging as one of the better offensive players at his position. Over 21 games, he is hitting .419 with eight doubles, four home runs and 21 RBI for one of the top programs in the country. He fits the mold as a true leader and is very aggressive in all areas of the game. Could be a steal if he is available in the 3-4 round range of the 2013 MLB draft. Committed to Georgia Tech.
Francis Christy, Casa Grande HS (CA)
Another left-handed hitting catcher, the 6’-1”, 215-pound Christy shows a lot of potential with the bat with good power. He hit .421/.505/.763 as a junior and has played in many big summer events and tournaments. He has a canon arm, very good footwork behind the plate and looks like he can remain at his current position. Committed to Oregon.
Gavin Collins, El Toro HS (CA)
A polished hitter with a short, compact swing, the 6’-0”, 195-pound right-hander is also a very good athlete with above-average speed. His swing doesn’t have a lot of moving parts which allows him to wait on his pitch and drive it to all fields. He hasn’t played much behind the plate this season due to an ankle injury but his strong arm and athleticism project well there, although a move to third base could be in the future for him. Committed to Mississippi State.
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