More ammo against drafting catchers in the first round:
As a Reds fan, I'm hoping Devin Mesoraco eventually develops into a poor man's Russell Martin. Taking a high school catcher in the first round is risky, and drafting one from a cold-weather state is even riskier. Can you give me the development path of some recent high school catchers taken in the first round?
Martin, a third baseman at Chipola (Fla.) JC, was a steal for the Dodgers as a 17th-round pick in 2002. If Mesoraco develops close to as quickly and as well as Martin did, he'll make the Reds happy. He'll also buck the trend of high school first-round catchers falling by the wayside.
Since I started working full-time for Baseball America in 1989, 16 prep catchers have gone in the first round, and just two have become all-stars behind the plate. Not coincidentally, Joe Mauer was the No. 1 overall choice in the 2001 draft, while Mike Lieberthal went No. 3 in 1990. Being a lofty pick is no guarantee, though, because Ben Davis and Tyler Houston were No. 2 overall selections. Daric Barton, Houston, Paul Konerko, Neil Walker and Jayson Werth wound up changing positions, while Ramon Castro, Ryan Christianson, Davis, Scott Heard and Mark Johnson were busts.
The most recent high school first-round backstops aren't any more encouraging. Brandon Snyder has moved from behind the plate. Scouts believe that Hank Conger and Max Sapp may have to do the same, and Conger hasn't been able to stay healthy, while Sapp hasn't had much success as a hitter.
Mesoraco has yet to light up pro ball, either. He batted .219/.270/.310 with one homer in 40 games in his debut last summer in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, and he has spent all of this season in extended spring training.
The track record of college first-round catchers isn't much better. Surprisingly, just 11 college backstops have gone in the first round of the last 19 drafts. Of that group, only Charles Johnson and Dan Wilson have become all-star catchers. Jon Farrell, Mitch Maier, Eric Munson, David Parrish and Alan Zinter were disappointments, while Landon Powell hasn't been able to stay healthy. With Kenji Johjima signed through 2011, Jeff Clement will have to help the Mariners as a first baseman/DH. The jury is still out on 2007 picks J.P. Arencibia and Matt Wieters, though Wieters looks like a possible superstar.