Phoenix - Finding Division I and professional catching prospects is often challenging, even at large-scale tournaments such as the USA Baseball 16U Championships.
There are 72 teams here in Phoenix. Most teams have 2-3 catchers, resulting in a pool of approximately 150-200 catching prospects. With games spread out among four different Spring Training complexes, it makes the job of finding the best catchers even more challenging.
So far, we’ve gotten a first-hand look at about 80 catchers in the workouts and early games. Here is a look at two of the best young catchers in the 16U Tournament – both rising sophomores:
1. Felipe (Tres) Barrera, C/RHP, 6-2, 195, R/R, 2013, McAllen, TX (South Texas Sliders)
He is #1 with a bullet defensively. Barrera began the tournament with three pop times in a row under 1.90 during Friday’s workout. Sometimes catchers will fool you in a workout setting, so I was anxious to see how Barrera’s skills would translate into a game. In a game on Saturday, a runner tried to steal second base and Barrera uncorked a Major League caliber throw to second base (1.86 pop time). His throw was so quick that the SS had to wait for the runner to get to the base before he could put the tag down. At that point I hadn’t even looked at Barrera’s age. With his solid 6-2, 195-pound build and advanced skills I thought he would likely be a 2012 grad. Much to my surprise, he has three years of high school remaining and is a 2013 graduate. His present defensive tools will command the attention of any college or scout.
2. Cole Taylor, C, 5-10, 190, R/R, 2013, Saugus, CA (ABD Bulldogs)
Another 2013 grad, Taylor’s game is power – both at the plate and with above-average arm strength. He was 2.06 in the workouts and launched a three-run homer to left field in his team’s game on Saturday. Taylor looks like an aggressive, take-charge type of leader and a potential high-end Division I recruit behind the plate.
Rivera an Impressive Two-Way Prospect
Chris Rivera (Fullerton, CA/Placentia Mustangs) was an easy to spot standout in Friday’s workout session. The 2013 graduate is a smooth-fielding middle infielder with plus actions. Despite being 5-10 and 155 pounds and just a rising high school sophomore, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to envision him playing at the highest Division I level in a few years.
Rivera also has another dimension to his game. He pitches quite well. He took the mound Saturday and immediately began pumping 87-89 MPH fastballs. Rivera touched 90 MPH on more than a few occasions.
Rivera was the lone 2013 grad on last year’s USA Baseball 16U National Team. He was a reserve middle infielder on USA’s gold-medal winning team. The year before (2008), Rivera played infield and pitched for the USA 14U National Team.