High school catchers are a tough lot to evaluate. Many are forced to put too much time into the rigors of defense behind the plate and plateau offensively, others are forced off of the position due to injury or defensive ineffectiveness and some simply can't provide enough with the bat to advance through the minor league ranks. However, there are few things more valuable than a catcher who can provide value on both sides of the ball, and this class has a few players who have the potential to do just that. One of them is Lexington High School's Nick Ciuffo.
Listed at 6'1", 200 by Perfect Game, Ciuffo looks the part of a big league catcher. He's comfortable behind the plate and has athleticism in spades. His arm is ample and he records excellent pop times while running very well for a backstop. Though it's possible his bat could play at other positions, Ciuffo is a prototypical catcher and looks like a very safe bet to stick at the position down the road.
At the dish, Ciuffo has a powerful left handed swing with an extremely quick trigger. He gets the bat through the zone in a hurry and drives the ball with authority, showing power to all fields. He has very little wasted motion in his stroke and looks to have the ability to hit for average and power at the big league level. His status as a lefty can only help his draft stock, as if it needed any.
Ciuffo has a fair amount of polish for a high school prospect, but given the risks that are associated with prep catchers, there are any number of obstacles that could hinder him in his quest to the big leagues, and there's always a possibility he never makes it. However, his athleticism and defensive tools should make him a big-league backup, even if his bat stagnates.
It's easy to dream on a player like Ciuffo, who has very few weaknesses as a prospect. He has a similar profile to a player such as Ryan Doumit offensively, but with an above-average glove. Doumit is a tremendous hitter as far as catchers go when he is healthy, and the comparison should be seen as praise.
Projected Draft Round
Recently ranked in the top 30 overall prospects by Keith Law, Ciuffo is projected by many as a first round pick. However, his commitment to South Carolina, a college baseball powerhouse in his home state, could come into play. If teams think he will sign, he should not last until the 50th selection, and could go as high as the mid-first round.
Will He Sign?
His commitment to South Carolina shouldn't be taken lightly, but it is very difficult to turn down first-round money in most cases, and teams will likely be willing to pay for a talent like Ciuffo. He's a relatively good bet to jump straight pro ball.
2012 Under Armour All-American NICK CIUFFO powered by Baseball Factory (via baseballfactoryTV)
Nick Ciuffo Prospect Video, Lexington High School (via Steve Fiorindo)
Minor League Ball (Matt Garrioch)
Ciuffo is the total package. In most drafts, he would be the best backstop in the draft, and there are some who think he currently is despite a lot of competition in this class. I think he is the most well rounded. When draft day comes, he will be off the board by pick 20.