The leader of the pack was undoubtedly Alex Avila. The kid is an absolute pure hitter with the ability to take any pitch to any part of the field. He rips line drives with ease and he has enough power to pop 15-18 home runs a year in the big leagues. Though the big concerns coming out of college centered on his defense, he seems to be coming along well. He was receiving the ball cleanly, framing pitches well, blocking balls well, and showing good accuracy on his throws. The arm strength is there to cut down a running game, but his mechanics are still a touch slow. He's still raw behind the plate, but I see a guy that can stick at the position long term and hit for an excellent average with enough power to be dangerous.
The other guy that is showing some potential is Jordan Newton. Though I had previously been told he'd be moving to the outfield permanently, he was behind the plate every game I saw in Florida, and after an off-season of hard work, he appears as though he may be able to stay there for now. He's still not a clean receiver, but he's quick and has a laser arm. His footwork still escapes him at times, and that can lead to some wide throws, but that should come with continued work. At the plate, he looked more patient than he was last season, and appears to be getting back to what made him a successful offensive player coming out of Western Kentucky.
We had a brief opportunity to see Julio Rodriguez in game action both offensively and defensively, and he's an intriguing guy to watch this year. His approach at the plate belies his age, and though he lacks in-game power, he has the strength and bat speed to hit for extra-bases. He looked like an excellent catch-and-throw guy with good accuracy and zip on his throws. Keep an eye on him when the GCL season gets rolling in June.
Joe Bowen and Angel Flores both saw extensive action while I was in town, and while one looked impressive, the other just didn't show well. Angel Flores still hasn't seen his bat come around, but his strength and the concept of the strike zone are there that he may make some strides. I still love his defense, and believe he could be an elite-level defender with a little more polish.
Bowen on the other hand looked lost at the plate and simply lacked any discernable approach to his at-bats. He flailed at plenty of breaking balls, and just didn't look comfortable in the box. I liked what I saw defensively, but if he can't hit, I don't see how he's going to carry even an A-ball job.
Adrian Casanova, Dusty Ryan, and Max St. Pierre also saw some time while I was there, but not enough to draw any significant new conclusions. Out of the players evaluated, the only guy in the system that may project as the catcher of the future is Avila and his pure lefty stroke and average defense. Keep an eye on him as he's pushed to Double-A this year, as he could established himself as a big time prospect in short order if he gets off to a strong start to the season.