There has been a common denominator between all of the successful Phillies teams over the last few decades: they had a great signal caller. Bob Boone, Darren Daulton, Carlos Ruiz. (and to a much lesser extent Mike Lieberthal). The “Chooch” era is over and now the Phillies are getting by with Cameron Rupp a majority of the games and Andrew Knapp as his backup (though it should be 50-50 at this point). Lying in the the weeds in Allentown is Jorge Alfaro, the power hitting, free swinger who needs some work defensively before hitting the big club. Lastly, down in Clearwater is Deivi Grullon, who is an exceptional defensive player already. There is a possibility that the Phillies already have their catcher for the future, but it still would not hurt to add more depth in the upcoming draft.
There are two players the Phillies may consider, in what is widely known as a weak crop of backstops, and both come from the high school ranks: M.J. Melendez and Luis Campusano. Melendez has the most upside because his frame, athleticism and power. They are all attributes that scouts look for in a franchise catcher. Campusano is not as athletic nor has the same type of power, but he is just as good defensively as Melendez. The biggest concern for both of them is their inability to get hits at the next level. But even so, scouts like them as high school prospects.
Neither of these prospects are definite first round picks, but considering the weak catcher class, they most likely will not drop past the fifth round. These two should be available and considered by the Phillies for one simple reason: you can never have too many good young catchers. If the one they draft turns out to be a good prospect they have two options: make the new guy their franchise catcher, or use him as a valuable trade piece because one of the guys ahead of him works out. If I had to pick one, I would take Melendez, but Campusano in the third round would be a strong pick.
M.J. Melendez, C, Westminister Christian School (FL)
6’1″, 190 lb
Commitment: Florida International University
Rankings (as of 5/30/17): MLB.com #54, Baseball America #50, ESPN #46
Athletic, quick feet and good lateral movement at the catcher position; his low targets are actually framed well. Above average arm strength, can throw accurately from knees; pop time topped at 1.82 seconds. Excellent bat speed, can hit the low balls well, hits to all fields. Lays off bad breaking balls. Ditches leg kick in two-strike counts to focus on contact. Above average pull power.
A bit of length to his swing, elbow looks like it goes a bit too far back on the load. Will be some swing and miss in his game; high pitches and away pitches might be a problem. Did not pop up from behind the plate in any video, but appears to favor throwing from his knees a lot.
Melendez is a tremendous catcher coming out of high school, which bodes well for him to be above average at the position. Being bilingual in English and Spanish will also be a bonus in communicating with pitchers. His power could carry him to 15-20 home runs annually, but he needs to learn how to hit consistently. Pitchers are going to force him into grounders and strikeouts if he does not improve. Hitting the other way with more power would help. Melendez is at the very least a backup catcher in the big leagues, as long as he can hit .220. If he’s an average hitter, he can be a an everyday catcher for seven to ten years.
Luis Campusano, C, Cross Creek HS (GA)
5’11”, 200 lb
Commitment: South Carolina
Rankings: MLB.com #72, Baseball America #45, ESPN #47
Strong, thick lower half. Slimmed down, more chiseled looking than in summer showcase videos. Has good barrel control, loose hands, swing stays in the zone long enough; can knock singles the other way. Above average pull power, improved his timing going from toe tap to a slight leg lift, closer to his BP swing. Good at game calling and framing, plus arm strength. Pop time topped at 1.84 seconds.
Lacks opposite field power. Bit of an uppercut swing, not exceptionally great bat speed, could probably get him down and in the zone, then go outside once challenged. Not very athletic, not laterally quick behind the plate. Struggles at times with blocking balls behind the plate.
Campusano has made tremendous strides by dropping weight and becoming more precise with his timing in the batter’s box. Defensively he is not far away from being a slightly above average receiver. He clearly has the drive and work ethic to improve as a hitter. Bat speed is not exceptional, so catching up to big heat could be a problem in the future if no improvements. A backup catcher role and a power bat off the bench is probably his long term future, with the chance to start in a three to five year window hitting 12-15 HR a year depending on an organization’s catching situation.