2010 MLB Draft Preview, Catchers: Projected No. 1 Pick Bryce Harper Highlights Top 5 Backstops

With the MLB First-Year Player Draft starting on June 7, MLB Bonus Baby's Andy Seiler previews the top five prospects at each position. In this edition, he looks at the catchers, led by projected No. 1 overall pick Bryce Harper.

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2010 MLB Draft Preview, Catchers: Projected No. 1 Pick Bryce Harper Highlights Top 5 Backstops

The catchers in the 2010 MLB Draft class are headlined by the great Bryce Harper. However, the talent doesn't stop there. Miami's Yasmani Grandal is expected to go in the first 12-15 picks, and he should be followed shortly by prep catchers Justin O'Conner and Kellin Deglan, then by LSU's Micah Gibbs. All could be off the board in the top 50 picks. They each bring something special to the table, so let's check out what makes them the top draft prospects that they are.

Bryce Harper  

School: CC of Southern Nevada   State: NV   Year: Fr.   Height: 6'3''   Weight: 205

Bats: L   Throws: R   Birth Date: 10/16/92   Last Drafted: Never

2010 58 193 75 80 19 2 23 68 17 4 34 38 .415 .504 .891

Do I even need to write anything about Bryce Harper? It seems I do. Harper offers two of the most coveted "tools" in all of the draft class: He can hit for power better than anyone and his arm strength is as good as, or better, than anyone in this class. Those two tools alone make him worthy of the top overall selection in the draft. However, he's a decent runner and above-average hitter for average, making him an all-around threat in every aspect of his game.

The lone question in his game now is where his long-term defensive position lies. He's improving steadily as a catcher, but as with Joe Mauer, there are going to be questions about moving him off the position simply to lengthen the effectiveness of his career. He could easily play right field well, and he has experience at third base, but it's obvious that his overall value is boosted by his position behind the plate. He's expected to go first overall to the Nationals, but don't expect to see him signing a contract until the signing deadline near midnight on August 16.

Yasmani Grandal  

School: Miami   State: FL   Year: Jr.   Height: 6'2''   Weight: 210

Bats: B   Throws: R   Birth Date: 11/8/88   Last Drafted: 2007 (BOS-27)

2008 38 124 25 29 6 0 7 28 0 0 22 31 .234 .358 .452
2009 59 197 48 59 11 0 16 45 2 1 33 37 .299 .414 .599
2010 53 187 47 80 21 1 13 54 0 1 50 28 .428 .552 .759

Yasmani Grandal has been a big name on the prospect scene for quite some time, and he would have been an early pick out of high school in 2007 had it not been for a strong commitment to Miami. After two years of flashing big potential, but not fully realizing it, he has broken out in a big way this spring, cementing his status as the best four-year college catcher in this draft class. A switch-hitter, Grandal's much better from the left side, and he flashes plus raw power and good hitting tools, and even though he's a well below-average runner, he's a decent baserunner and won't clog the bases as a pro.

Before his big breakout season this spring, Grandal was considered a defense-first catcher. He has a strong arm, good catching skills, and even though he's fairly big behind the plate, he looks like a natural leader and handles a pitching staff well. He shouldn't have to go through a major adjustment behind the plate as a pro, and there's speculation that he could be ready to suit up for a Major League team after just one full year in the minor leagues, which is reminiscent of how quickly 2008 first round pick Buster Posey was deemed ready for the Majors. Grandal could go as early as fourth overall to the Royals, and he shouldn't last past the Reds with the 12th pick.

Justin O'Conner  

School: Cowan HS   State: IN   Height: 6'1''   Weight: 190

Bats: R   Throws: R   Birth Date: 3/31/92   Commitment: Arkansas

Justin O'Conner isn't in the same boat as either Harper or Grandal, as he's very new to catching, having just picked it up within the last year. A natural shortstop, O'Conner was already having to face a potential position shift when scouts started wondering if he had the natural range to play in the middle of the infield, instead looking at him as a third baseman. However, he surprised a good number of people with the shift behind the plate, and even though he's been a part-time player there this spring, he's flashed all the tools to be a plus defender and hitter.

At the plate, he's blessed with plus natural power and is a solid hitter with a good approach. He's not going to win batting titles, but 20 or more home runs a year in his prime isn't out of the question from a demanding defensive position. His arm is easily his best overall tool, though, and he was also considered a pitching prospect entering the spring. He's obviously new to the nuances of catching, so he's raw in most regards, but there's plenty to like about his actions, which are nimble compared to some heavier backstops. Though he's by no means a sure thing to catch in the long run, he's expected to go in the back third of the first round as a signable bat with both offensive and defensive upside.

Kellin Deglan  

School: R.E. Mountain SS   State: BC   Height: 6'2''   Weight: 200

Bats: L   Throws: R   Birth Date: 6/3/92   Commitment: Florida International

Kellin Deglan isn't new to scouts, but he's new to the top level of draft prospecting. A solid top-10-round backstop entering the spring, he exploded with excellent performances while traveling with a team to Arizona this spring to play against pro players in extended spring training. A natural defender, his weakest areas are really with the bat, where he's fairly new to being considered a top-level hitter. In a way, he's most like traditional high school catcher picks, in that his defense and pop times are much more impressive than his bat, though his bat is quite good on its own.

As a left-handed hitting catcher with a sweet gap-to-gap swing, he gets plenty of comparisons to Joe Mauer, though he doesn't have the natural strength or size that Mauer has. However, he's more advanced defensively than anyone in the prep catching class this spring, showing plus defensive tools with an above-average arm, plus footwork, and a nice and easy approach to handling pitchers and receiving. He'll have plenty to work on when he reaches the pro level, but if his tear against pro pitchers in April shows anything, it's that he's ready to take on competition older than his age. He should go in the top 50 picks, but it's all a matter of which team is willing to spend the highest pick possible for a signable catcher.

Micah Gibbs  

School: LSU   State: LA   Year: Jr.   Height: 5'11''   Weight: 215

Bats: B   Throws: R   Birth Date: 7/27/88   Last Drafted: Never

2008 54 174 31 56 16 0 2 35 2 0 26 24 .322 .417 .448
2009 71 238 58 70 16 2 6 42 2 1 43 52 .294 .408 .454
2010 55 213 44 87 13 3 8 53 7 2 27 25 .408 .482 .610

Micah Gibbs has gained plenty of notoriety for being the starting catcher on one of college baseball's best teams for the last three years. That run has included a College World Series championship last June. Though the Tigers have really slowed down over the last two months, Gibbs has continued to have a career year with the bat. The least physically talented of this group, Gibbs lacks anything that really stands out as a plus tool. His bat is roughly average with fringe-average power, and while that's close to league-average for a catcher, that's less than some expect from an elite draft prospect.

Defense is where Gibbs really excels, but even then he lacks the raw physical tools of a standout defender. His arm is roughly average, and while his footwork is above-average, he struggles to consistently throw out runners, which is also a function of a pitching staff that hasn't helped him much this spring. He handles pitchers very well, though, and his receiving skills are his best asset for a Major League club to watch. He's going to benefit from being a switch-hitting catcher having a career year at the right time, and he should be a supplemental first round or second round pick.

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