With the MLB Draft on the horizon, our extensive coverage of baseball’s unique draft kicks off today with our initial catcher rankings. We’ll be rolling out position-by-position rankings here at RotoFanatic in the days leading up to the draft with an in-depth analysis of each specific prospect that is analyzed.

Headlining a deep and talented crop of backstops is NC State standout, Patrick Bailey. A switch-hitter that hits for power and shows excellent actions behind the plate, Bailey’s unique abilities on both sides of the ball make him the easy pick at number one.

The rest of this list is made up of several intriguing prospects. Tyler Soderstrom may end up having one of the highest pure hit tools in the entire draft when it’s all said and done. Both Dillon Dingler and Austin Wells are uber-athletic behind the dish with positional versatility to move around the diamond. Drew Romo’s projects to be an elite defensive catcher at the big league level and Kevin Parada could possibly be the first overall pick in the 2023 MLB Draft should he go to college.

Each of these blurbs was evenly written by both of our draft analysts: Diego Solares and Joe Doyle. After several hours of churning through video and information, these are the consensus rankings agreed upon by our staff. Without further delay, let’s get into it:

 

1. Patrick Bailey, 21 years old, NC State

Widely regarded as the top catching prospect in this draft, Bailey brings a unique skill-set to the table that somewhat resembles that of last year’s number one overall pick, Adley Rutschman. He’s a switch-hitter that embraces the power-over-hit type of approach at the plate and is capable of crushing the ball to all fields. Bailey’s swing looks smoother from the left side, showing a natural ability to elevate the baseball while his right-handed swing is more line-drive oriented. He controls the strike zone well and is more than capable of walking at an above-average rate at the next level despite some strikeout concerns over the summer circuit. Even with the improvements in his bat, Bailey should be known for his advanced defensive abilities. He’s a natural receiver that regularly steals strikes on the corners and is quick to release the baseball. Bailey, like the aforementioned Rutschman, was one of the few catchers in college baseball this season to call his own game. That’s an impressive feat for a 21-year-old and something that teams will certainly take into consideration when making their evaluations. Bailey’s shown enough over the last three seasons for me to confidently say he’s a safe bet to be an everyday big-league backstop. 

 

2. Tyler Soderstrom, 18 years old, Turlock HS (Calif.)

Tyler Soderstrom has one of the more impressive prep bats in the class. He will likely move off the catcher position, but that’s okay as the bat is the carrying tool anyway and should ultimately define his ceiling. He could move to either corner outfield spot, but his fringe-average run tool and lateral ability is probably best suited at third base. The hit tool projects at solid average, while the game power should reach 50. From this chair, Soderstrom should make the immediate move to a corner position and let the bat develop, though he has made it clear his passion for catching. Whomever selects may give him a year or so to sink or swim behind the plate, similar to the path Kyle Schwarber took when he was drafted. Placing him at third or left field may shave 18 months off his development schedule.

 

3. Dillon Dingler, 21 years old, Ohio State

A ridiculous athlete behind the plate, Dingler is an all-around catching prospect with an intriguing bat and the actions to stick behind the dish moving forward. His bat has come a long way since his arrival to Ohio State and he’s developed a profound understanding of the strike zone. We haven’t seen much home run power from the 21-year-old at Ohio State prior to this season, but he did set a single-season high this year prior to the cancellation and has flashed pull-side power in the past as well. A former center fielder, Dingler is arguably the best athlete of this group posting above-average run times and will easily be one of the more athletic catching prospects in baseball once he signs with an organization. His receiving skills are advanced with strong wrists that allow him to work under the baseball at times. Dingler boasts an above-average arm and uses that athleticism of his to explode out the crouch, recording above-average pop times as well. Even though he’s best suited behind the plate for the future, Dingler has played adequately in centerfield in the past and would be able to handle himself should he ever need to make a move. The finished product could end up being a power-hitting big league catcher with the speed to impact the game in multiple facets.

 

4. Austin Wells, 21 years old, Arizona

Wells, much like several other catchers near the top of this draft, likely won’t find a permanent home behind the plate. Also much like his contemporaries, the bat should carry him through the minors to and onto an eventual big league roster. Wells is a proven leader and an infectious personality in the clubhouse. He receives high marks for his attitude and ability to bring the most out of his teammates. As far as the tools go, it’s one of the more polished bats in the class. The approach is impressive, and the accompanying swing is compact and powerful. Wells has plus power to his pull-side but can get pull-happy at times. It’s a solid average bat with the potential for plus game power, especially to his lefty pull-side. Wells projects as a corner outfielder or first baseman at the next level. He should move quickly through the low minors.

 

5. Kevin Parada, 18 years old, Loyola (Calif.)

Parada is an intriguing prep talent that some consider an early frontrunner as a potential top pick come the 2023 MLB Draft if he doesn’t end up signing with an organization. An athletic 6-foot, 200-pound backstop with proportional strength to him, Parada’s feel to hit is advanced with easy bat speed and grades out as an above-average tool long term. He’s flashed above-average power in spurts at times, particularly to his pull-side where he does an excellent job of getting his bat head out in front and crushing the baseball. There isn’t much swing-and-miss to his game either, giving Parada a truly special offensive ceiling if he’s able to put it all together. The questions with him lie behind the plate, where Parada projects to be nothing more than an average defender with an average receiving ability and a strong arm. It’s likely that we see him move off from the position if he reaches pro-ball, but Georgia Tech actually has had success developing catching prospects over the last few seasons. That bodes well for Parada’s future draft value because improvements in his defense paired with the expectations we have for his offense make him a surefire first-round pick in three years. Getting a read on his draft value is difficult right now and it’s hard to project whether or not Parada will sign with a team. Regardless, he’s always going to be a bat-first prospect with a high offensive ceiling. 

 

6. Drew Romo, 18 years old, The Woodlands HS (Texas)

Romo represents one of the best defensive prep catchers in recent history. His acumen for work behind the plate is nothing new, considered one of, if not the top defensive prep catcher in the state of Texas for the better part of two, maybe three years now. At worst, Romo is almost assuredly a big-league backup thanks to his 70 defense and 60 arm. His flexibility and lateral mobility lead most to believe he’ll have no problem sticking behind the plate and surviving the workload of 400+ innings. Romo’s ceiling will be dictated by how the bat develops. Currently it projects below average as swing-and-miss has been a problem in the past. There’s definitely some juice at the plate, though Romo has had a hard time reaching it against better competition. If a team is willing to table his debut for five years and allow him the time necessary to reach his potential, Romo could develop into one of the better catchers in baseball.

 

7. Daniel Susac, 19 years old, Jesuit (Calif.)

The brother of a former second-round pick and current San Francisco Giant catching prospect Andrew Susac, Daniel seems to fly under the radar when compared to other prep catchers in this class. He’s a strong 6-foot-3, 205-pound switch-hitting backstop that brings physicality and raw bat strength to the plate. There’s clearly power to dream on with his frame. Susac’s swing does get a bit long and he consistently struggles to get his upper and lower body in sync. It’s apparent that he’s more comfortable from the right side, showing most of his raw power on that side of the plate. He’s an average defender with an absolute bazooka for an arm and the ball simply explodes out of his hand. A move to right field could be in his cards at some point but he’s cemented behind the plate for now. One thing to note with him is that Susac just turned 19 years old a few weeks ago, making him older than your typical high school senior. There’s no denying that he has a high ceiling, as you’d expect from someone with his profile, but it’s hard to look past how raw he is from a pure prospect standpoint. Any team would be taking a gamble on him at this point. 

 

8. Casey Opitz, 21 years old, Arkansas

All Optiz does is hit. He’s been a solid contributor for the Razorbacks for the better part of three years now, catching elite competition and calling his own games. Opitz has a sound approach at the plate and possesses a fringe-average hit tool that could develop into an average offering. There’s some pop in the bat too, grading out as below average with a chance to reach fringe-average as well. Opitz gets high marks for his leadership and ability to call a game. He has an easy plus arm that has been his calling card in the SEC for a couple of years now. Opitz likely projects as a platoon catcher from the left side. 

 

9. Michael Rothenberg, 21 years old, Duke

A sleeper prospect from the catching crop in this year’s draft, Rothenberg is a strong switch-hitting backstop with plus raw power that just flat out finds a way to get on base. His swing does get a bit aggressive at times, but Rothenberg has easy bat speed and consistently elevates the baseball enough to drive it out of the yard. He doesn’t really swing-and-miss much for someone who is definitely a power-over-hit type of player and owns a career on-base percentage of .406 over three seasons with Duke. While the tools are undeniable, Rothenberg does have his fair share of question marks, one of which being that he’s almost certainly going to be making a positional change sooner rather than later. Some evaluators also point to Rothenberg’s pitiful .459 OPS in the highly competitive Cape Cod league last summer as another red flag. All it takes is one team to fall in love with his loud tools, however, for Rothenberg to get drafted in the coming weeks. 

 

10. Jackson Miller, 18 years old, Mitchell HS (Fl.)

Nothing about Miller’s game will jump off the page to scouts. But as far as prep catchers go, he’s got some of the best polish of the bunch. Miller doesn’t have the loudest tools in the draft, but he really does everything well and projects to stick at the position. Shows soft hands and good pop times. His arm is solid average while his ability to help call a game, albeit at the prep level, has been impressive. Like Opitz, Miller has a sound approach at the plate that has yet to show much in-game power. The swing is quiet and geared more toward gap-to-gap power rather than home runs. There’s still some projections in Miller’s frame, and he’s still awfully young. A Wake Forest commit, heading to campus and putting on good weight with good instruction might boost his draft stock a good bit heading into his future 2023 eligibility. It’s easy to see Miller turning into a day-one pick down the road. 

 

11. Zavier Warren, 21 years old, Central Michigan

Warren is unlike any prospect on this list because his primary position isn’t even catcher. He’s seen time at third base and shortstop for Central Michigan, on top of working behind the plate, making him the ultimate utility weapon from a defensive standpoint. He’s a capable third base prospect with the athleticism to move around the diamond, including back to catcher, if needed. That long-term corner infield profile is actually a problem for Warren because of the projected offensive production evaluators have on him. He consistently repeats his swing and maintains a level path, but his power plays more in the gaps instead of over the fence. Most organizations want big-time power production from a corner infielder and that isn’t what Warren brings to the table. If he was to move back behind the dish, however, Warren’s bat suddenly becomes way more valuable and the question would ultimately become how well that transition will go. There’s obvious intrigue with Warren given how unique he is but there’s obvious risk attached as well. 

 

12. Carlos Perez, 18 years old, Florida Christian HS (Fl.)

As far as prototypical high school catchers go, Perez represents one of the better options in the draft. Physically mature for his age, Perez is a steady presence behind the plate, renowned for his ability to block balls in the dirt, as well as his catch-and-throw actions to second base. At 6-foot-2, Perez has the body that makes scouts believe he can develop into a player that supplies some pop at the plate. As it currently stands, Perez is a bit of a mechanical mess at the plate, lacking rhythm and tempo, especially at it pertains to seeing and hitting velocity. Put into a good player development system, there’s reason to believe Perez could turn himself into at least a 40 hitter with average power. That should be enough to carve out a big-league role, especially if his arm and prowess behind the plate continue to show out as they have so far. Perez is slated to enroll at Miami, where he’d fall under the wing of possibly the best offensive catcher in the country: 2021 eligible sophomore Adrian del Castillo.

 

13. Kale Emshoff, 22 years old, Arkansas – Little Rock

Emshoff is the small school prospect of this group that could eventually pop up onto people’s radars once he reaches the professional ranks. Standing at a hulking 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, Emshoff has easy 70-grade raw power and impacts the baseball with ferocity when he finds the barrel. He’s shown some feel to hit as well and could ultimately end up with an average hit tool; a massive boost for a power hitter. Emshoff did miss the entire 2019 season recovering from Tommy John surgery and he wasn’t given the opportunity to show that he was fully healthy this spring. He’s an adept receiver that works well behind the plate and projects to be an average defender at the next level. We’d never seen production from Emshoff that even sniffed what he was doing prior to the shutdown, so the legitimacy behind this offensive surge is pure speculation at this point. He’s an interesting prospect to monitor in the late rounds of this year’s draft. 

 

14. Corey Collins, 18 years old, North Gwinnett HS (Ga.)

Collins, a University of Georgia commit, will likely arrive on campus a catcher but may transition out of the position by the time he leaves Athens. A big, strong, 6-foot-3 lefty, Collins is a bat-first profile with hulking power to the pull side. It’s an average arm, and average receiving ability, though injuries have reportedly stunted his flexibility and potential long-term chances at staying behind the plate. Injuries aside, the entire package profiles better in left field or first base. With only five rounds this year, Collins should be an awfully tough sign. Many think the Suwanee, Georgia product has a chance to turn into a special offensive player. A few years on campus under a premier collegiate player development program could vault him into a day one pick come 2023. 

 

15. Jack Bulger, 18 years old, DeMatha (Maryland)

Bulger has pure physicality in his 6-foot-2, 205-pound frame with all-around strength and massive forearms. There’s clear bat speed in his quick-twitch hands and he’s shown easy pull-side power during batting practice. His ability to occasionally go to the opposite field is impressive as well. Bulger’s athleticism plays behind the plate and he compliments it well with an above-average arm. Question marks surrounding Bulger’s raw receiving skills limit his ceiling as a prospect right now and put his long-term future as a backstop in question. He’s almost certainly going to Vanderbilt where he’ll need to significantly improve his defensive game or move off the position as a whole. 

 

16. Calvin Harris, 18 years old, West Dubuque (IA)

Harris is going to be a bit of a project for Ole Miss. There’s a lot of projectability in the body and he possesses strong motions behind the plate. That being said, for a guy his size (6-foot, 200 pounds), Harris has a herky-jerky swing more oriented for hard ground balls. It’s a flat swing, bordering on a down-cut through the zone. The throwing arm and flexibility are there, so there’s a pretty good chance Harris sticks at the position during his collegiate career and beyond. With his defensive ability, Collins will certainly find himself picked once again come 2023. He’s virtually a lock to end up in Oxford this fall, especially with an abbreviated draft.

 

17. Matheu Nelson, 21 years old, Florida State

Nelson brings a former draft pedigree to the table as the Philadelphia Phillies selected him in the 39th round of the 2018 MLB Draft. He enters this year as a 21-year-old draft-eligible sophomore that struggled mightily in the Cape Cod league last season – .163/.280/.333 – and hasn’t tapped back into the offensive production we saw during his stellar freshman campaign. There isn’t one clear standout tool with Nelson and he’s an average backstop with an average arm. It’s likely that he finds himself back on campus this fall as a senior. 

 

18. Alek Boychuk, 18 years old, Mill Creek HS (Ga.)

Another talented backstop from the Peach State, Boychuk compares favorably to the aforementioned Corey Collins. He doesn’t have the body projectability of his predecessor, but he’s every bit the current hitter. It’s a fluid right-handed cut and projects a fringe-average hitter with average power at the big league level. It’s still to be determined whether Boychuk has what it takes to stay behind the plate. The arm is every bit of a solid average offering, but Boychuk doesn’t yet receive the ball well and has a long way to go in consistently framing pitches. These are certain things that can be developed, which gives him a shot considering the natural tools are there. Boychuk will likely end up at South Carolina this fall where his talents may be utilized at a number of positions on the diamond. There’s a third base profile here as well. 

 

19. Jake Deleo, 19 years old, Avon Old Farms (Conn.)

Similarly in some capacity to the aforementioned Zavier Warren, Deleo is an outfield first prospect that catches as well. He’s a physically mature 6-foot-2, 190-pound right-handed hitter with athleticism and some raw power. His tools speak louder than his production right now and there are holes in his offensive game that would be exposed by professional arms almost immediately. He’ll be at Georgia Tech this fall. 

 

20. Jack Payton, 18 years old, Brother Rice HS (IL)

At 5-foot-11, 180lbs, Payton isn’t yet built like a big-league catcher. That being said, he does have a strong lower half that he leverages well in his swing, as well as popping out from crouch. As it stands, Payton’s hit tool is below average and potentially even a shade below that. His right-handed cut is smooth through the zone, but mechanically it needs some work. The swing is exorbitant in uppercut nature, and Payton dips his back should in order to achieve his loft. This will undoubtedly create infield fly balls and weak rollers on offspeed pitches, as well as striking out. Payton is an athletic build, and he runs well. He may not stay behind the plate, and could comfortably shift to a corner outfield spot. A Louisville commit, Payton will be privy to a strong player development program where he could see his name creep into the top ten rounds come 2023.