High-SchoolBaseball: Nick Ciuffo
April, 20, 2012
By Jason A. Churchill | ESPN.com
Andrew Craft/ESPNHSMater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) junior catcher Jeremy Martinez celebrates the Monarchs' win over Harvard-Westlake in the championship of the inaugural USA Baseball H.S. Invitational.Each week from now until the end of April, we’ll take a look at the elite Class of 2013 baseball prospects by ranking the Top 5 players at each position. This week, we continue with the Top 5 catchers led by Jeremy Martinez of Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.). Martinez batted .388 with 32 RBIs as a sophomore and led Mater Dei to the USA Baseball National High School Invitational this season.
1. Jeremy Martinez, Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.)
Martinez receives above-average or better grades across the board. He excels on defense, where he possesses a plus arm, good feet and a good understanding of the position. He also shows plus makeup and leadership skills. He's already a draft prospect without talking about his bat and work ethic. Martinez can hit and there's some present power upon which to build. He's headed to USC should he pass on pro ball, but the phone could ring early on Day 1 come June. 2013.
2. Chris Okey, Eustis (Fla.)
Okey is a workout warrior and looks the part of a big-league backstop. He's athletic and has solid defensive tools, including good footwork and an above-average throwing arm. Okey is also very impressive at the plate, using his strong hands, wrists and forearms to generate good bat speed. His approach is sound and there are very few mechanical flaws in his swing. He's a Clemson commit, but he has a shot to play his way into first-day discussion with a strong senior year.
3. Nick Ciuffo, Lexington (S.C.)
Ciuffo has a solid left-handed swing that generates good power and searing line drives. The rest of his game is polished and he shows good makeup and feel. He committed to the Gamecocks prior to his freshman season, which lends an idea how long he's been on the radar. He's as good a present prep backstop there is, including the two players ranked ahead of him.
4. Arden Pabst, Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.)
Pabst can hit and there's at least gap power in the bat to complement his defensive work. He's a solid athlete, too, and has proven he can handle good velocity, suggesting he has the hands to stick at the position long term. He's chosen Georgia Tech for college ball, and they certainly have a way with catchers, having produced Jason Varitek and Matt Wieters.
5. Zach Collins, American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.)
Collins' calling card is plus raw power — the best among the top prep catchers in the country — which goes well with his advanced approach and good feel for catching. At 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, there's a good chance Collins has to move from behind the dish. If he can stay conditioned and focused, however, he could join Wieters as a 6-foot-5 catchers in Major League Baseball. If not, his left-handed power bat could carry him through as a first baseman. And yes, if Collins' chances to remain at catcher were greater, he'd likely sit a few spots higher on this list, perhaps even No. 1.
Others to Watch
Tyler Alamo, Cypress (Calif.)
Jarrett Freeland, Parkview (Lilburn, Ga.)
Ronnie Healy, Jupiter (Fla.)
Anthony Sherlag, Marist (Atlanta)
Christin Stewart, Providence Christian (Lilburn, Ga.)
Jason A. Churchill covers scouting, player development and the MLB draft for ESPN Insider, as well as Prospect Insider, where he's the founder and executive editor. You can follow him on Twitter @ProspectInsider and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.