In my fantasy league (which is a twenty-team keeper league), we draft five rounds of minor leaguers following our regular draft. These players can be kept in the minor leagues until they are called up, or stashed away until they reach rookie eligibility. These top prospects become huge trade bait at the trade deadline and if your team is in the hunt for the playoffs, these prospects can be traded for some great first round talent that can put your team over the top. It also allows those teams that couldn't quite make it, to snatch up super keepers for the following year or years to come.
To be eligible for the minor league draft, players must maintain rookie eligibility and to qualify for rookie eligibility, a player must not have exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched at the major league level.
Over the next couple of weeks, I will be breaking down the Top 15 Prospects at each position. Every couple of days you can find a new Top 15 Prospects by position and to complete the guide to prospects, I will be ranking the Top 100 Prospects.
Power hitting outfielders and top pitchers come along every couple of years but, a top hitting catcher often considered the cornerstone of the organization come along once in a decade. That is what makes Joe Mauer, Brian McCann and Matt Wieters so valuable to the Major League Clubs. So many teams have below average hitting catchers who have great defending skills and game management plans but, only a few have elite power hitting catchers that regularly bat in the middle of the lineup.
Finding the next Joe Mauer might be as simple as taking a chance on drafting one of the elite catching prospects listed below.
Top 15 Catching Prospects:
1) Buster Posey - San Francisco Giants (6'1", 205 lbs - Bats: R Throws: R - DOB: 03/27/1987)
He was the 5th overall draft pick in the 2009 Draft out of Florida State University and signed for $6.2 million dollars. That year, he received Baseball America's College Player of the Year Award and the Golden Spikes Award. He is a dream player, a pure hitter with terrific strike zone awareness. He can drive the ball to all fields, with plus plus power. He is a tremendous athlete, who is baseball smart and a natural leader. Defensively, he has plus arm strength and plus accuracy, throwing out 46% of base stealers who tried to test him in 2009. He compares to Joe Mauer with more power, who will bat in the middle of the line up for years to come. He has the potential to become a perennial All-Star. He will crack the lineup in 2010, but the job is his for 2011 and beyond.
2) Carlos Santana - Cleveland Indians (5'11", 190 lbs -Bats: S Throws: R - DOB: 04/08/1986)
Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2004 by the Los Angeles Dodgers for $75,000, he played third base and outfield within the organization for two years before making the transition to catcher in 2006. He became a breakout player as the Most Valuable Player in Class-A California League in 2008. He was traded to the Cleveland Indians as one of two players in the Dodgers acquiring Casey Blake for the 2008 Playoff run. He went on to become the Most Valuable Player in the Double-A Eastern League in 2009 and led the Akron Aeros to the 2009 League Championship. He has outstanding plate discipline, a great contact hitter with plus plus power from both sides of the plate. He has learned to work pitching counts well, has good balance and a short compact stroke. He has plus plus bat speed and strong hands through he zone. He is an elite prospect and will be full time in Cleveland starting in 2011.
3) Jesus Montero - New York Yankees (6'4", 225lbs -Bats: R Throws: R - DOB: 11/28/1989)
He was signed out of Venezuela as one of the top talents on the international market in 2006 for $2 million dollars, but it was renegotiated to $1.65 million dollars for an undisclosed reason. He has outstanding hand eye coordination and an ability to recognize pitches. He has a natural ability to hit the ball with tremendous strength. Defensively, he has improved his catching, but is still rated as a below average catcher. He has plus arm strength, but may be moved to designated hitter duties if he can't improve his catching skills. Many have compared to Mike Piazza with a little bit more athleticism. In 44 games at Double-A Trenton last season, he hit .317 with 9 home runs.
4) Jason Castro - Houston Astros (6'3", 210 lbs - Bats: L Throws: R - DOB: 06/18/1987)
The 10th overall pick in the 2008 Draft, he signed for $2.07 million dollars. He led Stanford to the College World Series in 2008 and led the PAC-10 with 105 hits. He hit .300/.380/.446 in his first professional season. He also helped Team USA win a Gold medal in the World Cup and played in the 2009 Futures Game. He has a great approach to the plate with a good feel for the strike zone. He makes consistent contact, works the count, gets on base, and can drive the ball to all fields. He is a good defender with a strong arm and has accurate throws. He is athletic with average power and compares to a young A.J. Pierzynski.
5) Tyler Flowers - Chicago White Sox (6' 4", 220 lbs - Bats: R Throws: R - DOB: 01/24/1986)
He was acquired by the White Sox, as the center-piece of the deal that sent pitcher Javier Vazquez to the Atlanta Braves. He has plus power and the strength and size to play the position. He is a middle of the line up hitter who has great hand eye coordination and pitch recognition. Calling games, he has become an excellent communicator who works hard on his game plans. Defensively he has an average arm with improved footwork and release. Look for him to crack the line-up in 2010.
6) Tony Sanchez - Pittsburgh Pirates (6'0'', 220 lbs-Bats: R Throws: R - DOB: 05/20/1988)
He was drafted as the 4th overall pick in the 2009 Draft out of Boston College. He led Boston College to their first NCAA Tournament in 42 years. After signing for $2.5 million dollars, he combined to hit for .309/.439/.539 at three different levels from Short season to High-A. He has solid power, good baseball instincts, great make up and leadership skills. Defensively he has gold glove potential, soft hands, strong arm and great ball blocking skills.
7) Wilson Ramos - Minnesota Twins (6'0", 220 lbs - Bats: R Throws: R - DOB: 08/10/1987)
He was signed out of Venezuela in 2004. He is physical and strong player with plus raw power who has the ability to put the barrel of the bat on the ball and drive. He has excellent plate coverage, natural hitting stroke and power to all fields. Defensively, he is agile, receives the ball well, has a plus plus arm and is an accurate thrower. He threw out 42% of base stealers who tried to run on him last season. Now that Joe Mauer is locked up to a long term contract extension, he becomes valuable trade bait in Minnesota's quest for the Playoffs. He will play full time in Triple-A Rochester this season.
8) Derek Norris - Washington Nationals (6' 0", 210 lbs - Bats: R Throws: R - DOB: 02/14/1989)
He was drafted in the 4th round of the 2007 Draft and has a mature approach to the plate, with tremendous strike zone awareness. With his strong compact stroke, he is able to make consistent contact and drive the ball to all fields. Defensively, he has good agility and ball blocking skills. He also maintains plus arm strength and a quick release as he threw out 36% of runners whom tried to take advantage of him last season. He is a potential All Star and will make a push to crack the big league line up in 2011.
9) Hank Conger - Los Angeles Angels (6'1", 220 lbs - Bats: S Throws: R - DOB: 01/29/1988)
He was drafted 23rd overall in the 2006 Draft and signed for $1.35 million dollars. He is an excellent hitter with plus bat speed and raw power. He makes consistent contact and drives the ball to all fields. He is a team leader and defensively blocks the ball well with agility. He has plus arm strength and accuracy. He is a potential All Star, yet is waiting his turn and honing his craft behind the Angels power tandem of Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis.
10) Travis D'Arnaud - Toronto Blue Jays (6'2", 195 lbs - Bats: R Throws: R - DOB: 02/10/1989)
He was obtained by the Blue Jays as part of the deal that sent Roy Halladay to the Philadelphia Phillies. He was originally drafted by the Phillies 37th overall in the 2007 Draft. Last season, he led the Southern Atlantic League with 38 doubles. He has plus raw power, tremendous strength in his hands, and excellent bat speed. Defensively, he is a very hard worker who boasts soft hands, good agility and plus arm strength and accuracy.
11) Wilin Rosario - Colorado Rockies (5'11" 195 lbs - Bats: R Throws: R - DOB: 02/23/1989 He is the complete package behind the plate. He has a quick compact stroke that can really drive the ball to all fields. He also has a plus arm that threw out 47% of base stealers who tested him in 2009. He will continue to earn through at-bats in the minor leagues and better game management. He will challenge Chris Iannetta for the position in 2012.
12) Austin Romine - New York Yankees (6'2", 210 lbs - Bats: R Throws: R - DOB: 11/22/1988)
He was drafted in the 2nd round in the 2007 Draft and is the son of former Big Leaguer Kevin Romine, who played for 7 years in the Majors. He won the Most Valuable Player Award in the Class-A Florida State League in 2009 and helped the Tampa Yankees to the League title. He projects to be a plus defender with a plus strong arm. His best tool is his raw power.
13) Will Myers - Kansas City Royals (6'3", 190 lbs - Bats: R Throws: R - DOB: 12/10/1990)
He was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2009 Draft with the 91st overall pick. He is a potential masher, whose best tool is his plus raw power. He projects to hit for average with his smooth consistent stroke through the zone. He compares to both Dale Murphy and Jayson Werth. He will work in the minor leagues, working on the craft of game management and defense.
14) Max Stassi - Oakland Athletics (5'10", 205 lbs - Bats: R Throws: R - DOB: 03/15/1991)
He was drafted in the 4th round of the 2009 Draft and signed for $1.5 million dollars. He comes from a baseball family; He is the great-great nephew of former major leaguer Myril Hoag and his father was his high school baseball coach. He has excellent hitting skills with good leverage, balance and swing. He has plus raw power to all fields and is an advanced hitter who has quick hands through the zone. He is mature and a leader on the field carrying himself well.
15) Alex Avila - Detroit Tigers (5'11", 210 lbs - Bats: L Throws: R - DOB: 01/29/1987)
Son of the Detroit Tigers Assistant GM, he was signed out of Alabama in the 5th round of the 2008 Draft. He projects as a just below .300 hitter, who has average power, projecting to hit 15 homers at the Major League level. He has tremendous make up and instincts from growing up around the game. He threw out 44% of runners who tested him, leading the Double-A Eastern League in throwing out base stealers. He will be a solid regular in Detroit this season splitting time with Gerald Laird, but the position is his fulltime in 2011.