TigsTown Draft Notebook: The Next Backstop

It has been well documented that the Tigers will be needing a successor to Pudge Rodriguez behind the plate in time, and the 2007 draft offers a very deep crop of solid catching prospects that the Tigers could take a look at as Pudge's replacement.

Georgia Tech's Matt Wieters is the top prospect available this year, but even though his numbers are down, there is very little chance he escapes the first five picks in the draft, so the Tigers likely won't have a shot at getting him. After playing a paramount role in helping Oregon State winning the national championship last June, Mitch Canham turned down the Cardinals as a 41st-round pick, and has had a terrific junior year to be a candidate to go in the first round. Entering the week, he's hitting .355 with eight homers and 50 RBIs. Canham didn't start catching until he got to college, but has made great strides defensively.

Another prospect who is focusing strictly on catching is Auburn's Josh Donaldson. The junior was an all-star in the Cape Cod League last summer as a utility player, but his transformation behind the plate has been completed. He has a strong arm to go with a quick release and quick feet, and he has a solid offensive game and good power. He is hitting .335 with nine homers, 45 RBIs, and is 17-for-20 in stolen bases.

Like Canham, Donaldson should be gone in the first 50 picks. A bad back has hampered Tennessee's J.P. Arencibia, who has just five home runs this year, but catchers with his power potential tend not stay on draft boards very long, and he should be in the supplemental first-round area.

Texas' Preston Clark is exceptional in all phases of the defensive game, but his bat has been coming around. As a draft-eligible sophomore, his sign ability will be a huge factor.

Lamar's Michael Ambort has split time at first base and catching, as he continues to work his way back from Tommy John surgery. His bat has showed no rust with a .380 average and 11 homers. Alex Garabedian of the College of Charleston turned down the Yankees as a seventh-round pick out of high school, and he should go in the first 10 rounds this June. He also has 11 homers.

Two other college catchers who have solidified their draft standing with better defense to go with good offensive potential are Mississippi State's Ed Easley and Louisiana-Lafayette's Jon Lucroy. Oklahoma's Jackson Williams and Rice's Danny Lehmann are more known for their strong defense, while South Alabama's Joel Collins has solid all-around tools. Kentucky's Sean Coughlin should make a nice senior sign after a terrific year (.347 BA, 11 HR, 65 RBI) with the bat to date.

The prep ranks also have several outstanding prospects who could go in the early rounds of the draft. Pennsylvania's Devin Mesoraco has moved up draft boards with his very attractive package of tools. He has terrific athleticism, a strong and accurate arm (despite having surgery on it after his sophomore year), and solid power potential. Mesoraco has committed to Virginia, but with his outstanding performance this spring, he's a good bet to go high enough to pass on college.

Florida's Yasmani Grandal has long been considered the top defensive catcher in the prep class, but his bat has taken a huge leap forward this spring. He has signed to stay at home with Miami (Fla.). Travis d'Arnaud (California) has also stepped to the forefront of the prep catching class with his power bat and improved defense.

Fellow Californian Austin Romine, who older brother Andrew could go in the first five rounds as a shortstop from Arizona State, has also moved up draft boards and a showdown with d'Arnaud brought hordes of scouts in. His season ended prematurely due to an injury, which may cloud his signability.

With the dearth of catchers available this year, don't be surprised if the Tigers try and draft a few of them on this list. Finding good catchers is a very difficult chore, so even if they sign someone like Ben Petralli before the draft as a draft-and-follow, the crop of catchers is solid enough to warrant adding extra prospects to the system.

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