Draft Preview: Phillies Need To "Catch" A Good One

With a big hole in the organization's catching ranks, the Phillies will likely target young catchers in the 2003 Draft. The signings of Jim Thome and David Bell will knock the Phillies out of contention for the two best catchers in the draft who should both be long gone before the Phillies make their first pick in the third round. So, who else is left to take over the title of Phillies catcher of the future?

Saying ‘Hello' to Jim Thome and David Bell meant saying ‘Goodbye' to Mitch Maier and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Maier and Saltalamacchia are considered the two best catching prospects available in this year's draft, but neither of them will be Phillies. Signing Thome meant losing the first round pick – 18th overall – which is the area that Maier is likely to go. Signing Bell meant losing a shot at Saltalamacchia, although he is generally projected ahead of where the Phillies would have picked in the second round. Actually, some mock drafts wouldn't have had either catcher coming to the Phillies since they would have been gone when the Phillies picked and it's unlikely that the Phillies would have stretched so far as to take Saltalamacchia with the 18th pick.

By the time the Phillies pick in the third round, it's likely that two more catchers will exit the ranks of the available. Landon Powell from the University of South Carolina and Javi Herrera from the University of Tennessee may both go by the time the Phils first pick – 85th overall – comes around. Powell should go by around the 70th pick, but Herrera might just fall to the mid-80s.

Some scouts say Powell may be the best all around catcher in the draft. Powell is a switch-hitter and scouts think his raw power will develop into major league homerun power with the right coaching. He also handles pitchers well, has a quick release and strong arm. Teams passed over Powell when he left high school. At the time, Powell was represented by Scott Boras, who had Powell take the GED to qualify for the draft. Powell passed the GED, but teams passed on Powell and he headed off to South Carolina.

Herrera is one of the quicker and better catchers you'll find at covering bunts and in his overall defensive abilities. 2002 was basically a lost season for Herrera because of a broken hamate in his right hand and arthroscopic surgery on his throwing shoulder. As a freshman in 2001, Herrera hit .296 with seven homeruns. The Red Sox initially drafted Herrera in 2000, but he decided to go to the University of Tennessee instead.

While Maier, Saltalamacchia, Powell and Herrera are likely lost to the Phillies, who remains? There are actually four catchers that the Phillies can look at with the 85th pick.

Lou Palmisano - Palmisano comes from Broward Junior College in Florida and is starting to really open some eyes. Scouts think Palmisano's power will develop and he has average to above average defensive skills. If there is any concern about Palmisano, it's that he doesn't seem able to pull the ball, but again, scouts think that will develop, leading to more power. The White Sox drafted Palmisano in 2001, but he never signed.

Daric Barton - If the Phillies prefer to look at the high school ranks, Barton is the likely first glance. Barton is a left-handed hitter out of Marina High School in Huntington Beach, California. His defense hasn't caught up to his offensive abilities, but Barton has continued to improve behind the plate. Offensively, the kid can flat out hit and he's athletic enough that if his defense doesn't come around, he could likely shift to another position. Of course, that wouldn't help the Phillies need for a catcher.

Justin Brashear - Brashear has been a catcher and first baseman in his high school career. He's got the basic defensive skills to catch, but his focal point is offense. He's a left-handed hitter, but he may wind up as a first baseman if his defense doesn't progress. Most scouts believe he can learn the defensive part of the game and has a better than average shot at being a major league catcher.

Colt Morton - Morton plays at the University of North Carolina. Morton is a big one at six-foot-five and he has a lot of power. Defensively, he's lacking and scouts are a little concerned about his overall defensive abilities. His bat may be hard to resist, but again, moving Morton out from behind the plate wouldn't help the Phillies hole at the position.

Brashear and Morton would be a stretch with the 85th pick. Grabbing them there would put them about ten to fifteen picks ahead of where most scouts project them to go. The Phillies may also not reach for them because of concerns about their defense. Brashear is definitely the better overall option of the two.

Palmisano and/or Barton should be there when the Phillies make their first pick. Their projections would put them right in the Phillies third-round neighborhood. The decision is basically to go with the junior college guy (Palmisano) or the high schooler (Barton). Barton may have the most upside and could be the better pick.

If the Phillies miss on a catcher in the third round, there are others, but none nearly as promising. High schooler Cody Collet out of Newbury Park (California) High School and Jordan Newton out of Larue County (Kentucky) High School should be there in the fourth round and could even fall to the fifth round – especially Newton. By the time the fifth round comes around, in addition to Newton possibly being available, two other high school catchers and a college catcher come into the picture. Jake Fox out of the University of Michigan, C.J. Bressoud out of North Cobb (Georgia) High School and Jon Still of Madison Central (Mississippi) High School should all be available. Still seems to have the best shot at being able to help the Phillies and might be the pick in either round five if the Phillies still need a catcher. It's unlikely that any of the top ten catchers in the draft would be available by the time the sixth round hits, so the Phillies will have to make their move early. Don't be surprised to see the Phillies use their first pick – third round overall – to take a catcher unless the only remaining backstops are too much of a reach to go that early.

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