In today’s 2023 stock watch, we’re beginning a position by position preview for the 2023 draft class, starting with the position furthest up the defensive spectrum: catcher.
Catchers are the least productive offensive players in the majors, and it’s not particularly close, but as we’ve written about previously at Baseball America, we could be entering a new golden era for the position. There are a number of talented catching prospects who are soon to be entrenched big leaguers, with D-backs catcher Gabriel Moreno leading the way.
The matriculation of prospects like Adley Rutschman, Korey Lee, Keibert Ruiz and Shea Langeliers, as well as looming prospects including Francisco Alvarez, Diego Cartaya, Endy Rodriguez and Tyler Soderstrom, could adjust how we view catching talent in the majors, in addition to various rules changes that could tweak how teams value catcher profiles in general.
A catcher’s arm strength and accuracy could become more important in upcoming years, as rules MLB adopted for 2023 including restrictions on pickoff throws and the pitch clock will make it easier for players to steal bases. Similar rules in the minors led to dramatic increases in the number of steals and the success rate.
The last five years have been strong ones for the catcher position, particularly at the top of the draft. Since 2018 at least one catcher has been selected among the top 15 picks. There’s a chance that doesn’t happen in the 2023 draft, as the highest-ranked catcher on our current draft board is Virginia backstop Kyle Teel, who checks in at No. 21.
Below is an overview of the 2023 catching class as it stands today, with information on current top-100 prospects, other catchers to know and a 20-80 grade on the talent of the position relative to an average draft year. We’ll revisit these position previews at the end of the draft cycle and see if our preseason grade holds up or needs adjustment.
Top drafted catchers of all time (by bWAR):
- Johnny Bench, Reds (1965, 2nd round) — 75.1
- Gary Carter, Expos (1972, 3rd round) — 70.2
- Eddie Murray, Orioles (1973, 1st round) — 68.7
- Craig Biggio, Astros (1987, 1st round) — 65.5
- Joey Votto, Reds (2002, 2nd round) — 64.3
- Joe Mauer, Twins (2001, 1st round) — 55.2
- Ted Simmons, Cardinals (1967, 1st round) — 50.3
- Josh Donaldson, Cubs (2007, supp. 1st round) — 46.7
- Dale Murphy, Braves (1974, 1st round) — 46.5
- Thurman Munson, Yankees (1968, 1st round) — 46.1
- Buster Posey, Giants (2008, 1st round) —…