On we go to the position prospects! I plan to post these blogs in position order (1 - starting pitcher, 2 - catcher, 3 - first base, 4 - second base, 5 - third base, 6 - shortstop, 7 - left field, 8 - center field, 9 - right field), followed by relief pitchers.
The choices here, under 23, become very limited if I'd like anyone with any major league service time to start for me. Catchers are notoriously slow to develop, because they have so much to learn behind the plate. Their bat tends to lag in comparison.
1. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Rangers, May 2, 1985 (22)
Fortunately for our team, Salty doesn't turn 23 until May, so he meets our April 1 cutoff date. The Braves never would have traded him had they not already had Brian McCann performing so well in the majors (McCann himself will be 24 this season). There are questions as to whether he'll be the top catcher on this team in two or three years, but for now he's by far the best option to start and play regularly for this squad. He's got a lot of power potential and for a young player he does a nice job of managing pitchers.
ML Stats: 308 AB, .251/.310/.422, 91 OPS+, 11 HR, 33 RBI
2. Matt Wieters, Orioles, May 21, 1986 (21)
The Orioles got an absolute steal in Wieters in the draft. He should not have been available at the 5th overall spot, but the Pirates drafted far too conservatively and passed up a player who, by all accounts, is excellent both offensively and defensively. He has a tremendous arm, having touched 96 mph as a closer. He's been compared to Charles Johnson defensively. He's got power and plate discipline, but has some kinks to work out of his swing. He'll be ready to play in the majors by 2009, but our team will need someone to step in as the backup catcher until then.
HWB Stats: 106 AB, .283/.364/.415
For the #3 spot, our choices are somewhat limited by our age restriction. Miguel Montero, Diamondbacks (24), Jeff Clement, Mariners (24), Geovany Soto, Cubs (25), and J.R. Towles, Astros (24) are out. Even Taylor Teagarden (24) and Bryan Anderson (23) are unavailable. So who do we have left among our top catching prospects? Jesus Montero, Yankees, is 18, but not close and may not end up being a catcher (he may end up at 1st). Hank Conger is a similar story, at 20, although he's more likely to stick behind the plate.
For a comparison of just how difficult it is to fill this position and project it, the top catching prospect a few years ago was a 20 yo by the name of Daric Barton, who's now a first baseman with the Athletics. Another is Ryan Garko, who most of you should know is a very solid slugger playing for the Indians--at first base.
So, without further ado, the catcher whose potential we completely ruin by rushing him to the majors before he's ready and make him a backup is:
3. Francisco Cervelli, Yankees, March 6, 1986 (22)
Cervelli's not even the top catching prospect on his team (possibly the #3 behind both Jesus Montero and Austin Romine) by most accounts. He's the only top catching prospect to play at High-A or above, however, that has the potential of holding his own.
HiA Stats: .279/.383/.397