Kevin Goldstein writes today about the best future catchers. (It's a free article.) As he points out, it's a thin crop, as it always seems to be. (Seriously, can you remember there even being a ton of uber-prospect catchers?) No surprise there--that's why Gary Bennett still has a job.
In his rankings, Goldstein mentions 17 players, plus some draft picks. Nowhere to be seen is Angel Salome, everyone's favorite catching prospect to ignore. Despite a cold start, Salome is now hitting 305/330/458 in the pitching-heavy Florida State League. It's a stretch of a comparison, but in about the same amount of time last year, Ryan Braun hit 274/346/438. Oh, and Salome's younger.
Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Salome ought to top Goldstein's list. I know, like every prospect analyst in the country, that the guy is 5'7, 190, and guys built like that don't make it as catchers. Except--and here's my problem--everybody knows they don't make it as catchers, so there aren't very many 5'7, 190 catchers out there in High A to test the hypothesis. He's made it this far, we're not hearing serious concerns about his defense (in fact, his arm gets rave reviews), so maybe we should evaluate Salome as the guy he is, not as the people (who we don't know much about anyway) who he's not.
Consider PECOTA's evaluation. PECOTA takes size heavily into account; guys who do projections have it down a science how much they should dock a guy for being under-height or over-weight or too old for their league. For this year--that is, before Salome had gotten a single AB above low-A, PECOTA pegged him at 259/305/394 in the big leagues this year. That's an OPS of about 40 points lower than Johnny Estrada's, which is itself just about the spitting image of league average behind the plate.
Did I mention Salome just turned 21 last month?
PECOTA has Salome peaking at age 24, with a line of 274/327/429, which is--how about that?--better than average for a catcher. He's not the next Mike Piazza, that's for sure, but a cheap, in-house Estrada? Yessir. I'd certainly take him over Lou Palmisano, who did get an honorable mention in Goldstein's list.