Red Sox Prospect No. 19: Jon Still

Editor's Note: Diehard Magazine is in the midst of its third annual countdown of the top 50 prospects in the Red Sox chain today. Subscribe to our print magazine in order to learn even more on the top 50! Today: The countdown continues with the no. 19 prospect, catcher/first baseman Jon Still.

Nobody ever confused Mike Piazza for a Gold Glove-caliber performer behind the plate. But whenever he was criticized for his defensive shortcomings, Piazza's supporters pointed out that he took pride in catching and that, in turn, helped him in the batter's box, where he hit more homers than any backstop in history.

Jon Still probably isn't going to have a Piazza-esque career. But like Piazza, he certainly seems to swing the bat much better when he's behind the plate.

Still enjoyed an impressive season last year, when he hit .291 with 25 homers, 98 RBI and 105 walks—tops among Red Sox minor leaguers—between Single-A Greenville and Single-A Lancaster. And he was at his best when he was catching: He hit .336 with 11 homers and 40 RBI in 140 at-bats as a catcher and .264 with 10 homers and 39 RBI in 220 at-bats as a first baseman or designated hitter.

That wasn't a new trend for Still, who struggled at Lowell (.220 with two homers and 27 RBI in 232 at-bats) after he was selected by the Sox in the fourth round of the 2006 draft out of North Carolina State. And last fall, he hit a league-low .146 in the Arizona Fall League, where he made all but one of his appearances somewhere other than catcher.

"I think we look at Lowell as an aberration [more than] last year being a breakout, to be honest with you," Sox director of player development Mike Hazen said. "This guy was a major college offensive player that kind of suffered just not having a position. He hit in the Cape [Cod League during the summer prior to his final year of college]—he always hit. We felt like he was going to hit. Last year reaffirmed that he possesses the skills to be a very good hitter."

So why doesn't Still catch more? The five errors he made in 39 games at Greenville probably have a lot to do with it.

The Sox plan to rotate Still between catcher, first base and designated hitter again this year, but with the club desperately searching for a long-term successor to Jason Varitek—and the sudden glut of first base/designated hitter types in the lower and middle rungs of the chain—don't be surprised if Still ends up with the bulk of the work behind the plate this year at Lancaster. If he could display adequacy behind the plate, his power and plate approach would make him quite an asset at a position where offense is often an afterthought.


Previous prospects ranked No. 19:
2007: Kason Gabbard, P (traded to the Rangers in July 2007)
2006: Jeff Corsaletti, OF (ranked no. 23 in 2007)
2005: Juan Cedeno, P (traded to Royals in July 2005)


DIEHARD 2008 TOP 50 PROSPECTS
50.) Travis Beazley, P
49.) Beau Vaughan, P
48.) Ty Weeden, C
47.) Mike Jones, 1B
46.) Tommy Hottovy, P
45.) Chad Spann, 3B
44.) Yamaico Navarro, SS
43.) Chad Rhoades, P
42.) Mike James, P
41.) Jay Johnson, OF
40.) Jeff Natale, IF
39.) George Kottaras, C
38.) Bryce Cox, P
37.) Daniel Haigwood, P
36.) Che-Hsuan Lin, OF
35.) Edgar Martinez, P
34.) Andrew Pinckney, 3B
33.) Dusty Brown, C
32.) Jason Place, OF
31.) Jeff Corsaletti, OF
30.) Argenis Diaz, SS
29.) Daniel Bard, P
28.) Brock Huntzinger, P
27.) Adam Mills, P
26.) David Pauley, P
25.) David Mailman, OF
24.) Anthony Rizzo, 1B
23.) Chris Province, P
22.) Bubba Bell, OF
21.) Hunter Jones, P
20.) Zach Daeges, OF
19.) Jon Still, C/1B


Diehard managing editor Jerry Beach can be reached at diehardmag@yahoo.com. To receive a free issue of Diehard, call 888-501-5752.

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