High School | General | 4/14/2021

Summer Preview: Class of '23 Catchers

Drew Wesolowski        
Photo: Raffaele Velazquez (Perfect Game)
As high school baseball is starting to get going across the country in most regions, with some states actually heading into the playoffs, it all means the summer circuit is right around the corner. Over the next several weeks we will look at the top-ranked players at each position, in each class, while also taking a look at some gut-feel players that could be big risers. With players having more access to individual development, things will undoubtably change at a rapid pace in the early months of the Perfect Game schedule. This provides a good look at some of the top performers coming into 2021 who look primed to continue dominance or make their mark on a national level. 

Class of 2022: Catchers

Raffaele Velazquez (Calif.)
6-1/209, L-R
Commitment: Arizona State
PG Events: 9
Key Stats: .439-1-16 / 1.206 OPS

Short Story: Velazquez had a standout summer as he flashed elite metrics at the 14u National Showcase. Legit catch-and-throw skills with a strong arm behind the dish combined with a big left-handed bat finds him atop all other catchers in the ’23 class. 

Big Moment: His performance at the 14u National Showcase was a defining moment as he was far advanced with his tool set. Had a sub-2.00 pop time and drove it for power to both sides of the field, further cementing his talents. 

Bold Prediction: The way the young man’s prep career has kicked off; you would expect him to continue to hone his defensive skills and add more strength to the frame. Don’t be surprised to see him start launching baseballs out of the yard and become a legit power hitter who can handle the staff behind the dish as well. 

Zion Rose (Ill.)
6-1/190, R-R
Commitment: Louisville
PG Events: 23
Key Stats: .440 avg. / 25 RBI / 31 SB 

Short Story: Rose combines a very physically mature frame with athleticism all while being fundamental behind the dish. He also swings it with authority as the baseball jumps off the barrel. 

Big Moment: He had a stellar showing back-to-back weeks at the World Championships in 2020. He tore up the Sophomore event, hitting .556 with three extra-base hits and then proved he could do the same as he played against older prospects a few weeks later. He hit .333 against the best pitching in all of prep baseball. 

Bold Prediction: Rose has all the makings of the next big prospect to come out of the Midwest. His physical stature is only going to get more filled out and he will be a legit power threat in years to come at the dish. 

Riley Jackson (Fla.)
6-0/197, R-R
Commitment: Florida State
PG Events: 43
Key Stats: .329-6-132 

Short Story: Jackson has long been known for his bat as he has swung it in some of the most prestigious events. Big time thump in the bat and is starting to evolve as a high-end defender as well. 

Big Moment: Was a menace at the plate in 2020 as he hit at every stop on the circuit. Accomplished all he did at the plate while doing an excellent job behind the dish handling some top-tier prep arms. 

Bold Prediction: Jackson will continue to swing a hot stick as he has done nothing but rake in the past. Look for him to grow as a defender and take his catching duties to that elite-type level. 

Nikolas Sanders (Texas)
6-1/185, R-R
Commitment: Texas 
PG Events: 27
Key Stats: .399-3-59 / 1.196 ops

Short Story: Sanders is a huge standout in the ever-so-loaded state of Texas. The right-handed bat has immense power and he is very athletic behind the dish. Makes everything look easy as he goes about his business. 

Big Moment: We had heard rumors of Sanders before, but it was his showing at the 14u National Showcase a few years back that sparked all of the buzz. Was head and shoulders more polished than his counterparts as he put on a show during batting practice before being a guaranteed selection to the Select Fest game. 

Bold Prediction: Sanders has all of the tools necessary to become one of the top prospects in the entire class. The bat already plays in a big way and if he is to continue to progress defensively behind the dish, he could make the argument that he is the best catching prospect in the ’23 class. 

Brady Neal (Fla.)
5-10/180, L-R
Commitment: Louisiana State 
PG Events: 37
Key Stats: .318-3-68

Short Story: Neal has been a standout for years now as he has a fluid left-handed stroke and is nothing short of a gamer behind the dish. Advanced receiving skills with a strong arm and a barrel-finder type swing are going to carry him far. 

Big Moment: Most recently, Neal had a great performance in Hoover at the High School Showdown. He hit an easy .333 with a loud double and had an OPS just under 1.000. He continues to impress even when playing against older prospects. 

Bold Prediction: Neal has always been fundamental behind the dish, but he shows big power potential at the dish. If he is to start generating more lift, you could see his extra-base hit numbers skyrocket in the future, making his stock raise even further. 

Stone Lawless (Ala.)
6-3/205, R-R
Commitment: Tennessee
PG Events: 11
Key Stats: .355-1-27 / .999 OPS

Short Story: Lawless is a physical specimen for his age at a muscled-up 6-foot-3. Big time thump in the bat as he drives it with authority. Starting to show as more refined defensively behind the dish. 

Big Moment: Had a strong showing in his home state last summer at 15u National Elite Championship. Hit .333 on the weekend with a towering home run and knocked in five runs. Cemented his spot as a top prospect in both the state and nation. 

Bold Prediction: The bat has always been there for Lawless, but if he is to continue to progress behind the dish, you can make the argument that he is one of the top prospects in the entire country. It'll be fun to watch his progressions over the next few years. 

Colton Wombles (Ala.)
5-9/180, R-R
Commitment: Auburn
PG Events: 30
Key Stats: .355-2-51 / 1.052 OPS with 78 stolen bags

Short Story: Wombles plays an extremely high-motor type game as he is all over the field. Explosive hands helping both at the plate with a quick bat and behind the dish as he uses the arm strength to keep runners where they stand. 

Big Moment: Had a stellar showing at the High School Showdown this spring as he won All-Tournament Team accolades. Hit .692 with seven base knocks and a pair of doubles as well. Impacts with authority and is a grinder behind the dish. 

Bold Prediction: You’re going to get Wombles’ full effort at all times and that is going to carry him far. Look for him to continue to just flat-out rake and handle the pitching staff with a bulldog mentality behind the dish. 

Conner Bennett (Texas)
5-9/160, R-R
Commitment: Vanderbilt
PG Events: 30 
Key Stats: .397-5-68

Short Story: Bennett has done nothing but find barrels at past PG events as he has over 20 doubles to his name. The refined skills behind the dish just add to the resume as well. Immense upside at the dish with easy power in the bat. 

Big Moment: Had a very good showing at Worlds last year in Fort Myers as he proved he could swing it with the best of them, even against older talent. Hit .400 on the week and had an OPS of 1.100. Further proved that he has what it takes offensively to take that next step. 

Bold Prediction: Bennett has little to prove with the bat as he puts up numbers at every event he plays in. The skills behind the dish are going to start showing as more polished and look for him to make a big jump defensively in the future. 

Campbell Smithwick (S.C.)
6-0/175, L-R
Commitment: Ole Miss 
PG Events: 12
Key Stats: .353-1-34 / .993 OPS

Short Story: Smithwick is one of the more defensively-refined catchers in the class. Next level catch-and-release skills already showing and combines that with pop in the left-handed bat as he sprays it to all fields. 

Big Moment: Was a standout at the 14u National Showcase as he earned an invite to the 14u Select Fest game. Had a very loud double in the game and was poised behind the dish as well. All signs pointing up for the sweet-swinging left-handed hitter who is polished behind the dish. 

Bold Predictions: The fundamentals here are going to take him a long way as he has a great structure to build off of. Look for him to continue to add strength to the equation and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him add power to his tool set down the road. 

Ryder Helfrick (Calif.)
6-1/190, R-R
Commitment: California 
PG Events: 4
Key Stats: .383-1-13 / 1.104 OPS

Short Story: Helfrick has been making noise for years as one of the top bats in the ’23 class as all he does is find barrels. Uber-athletic in his actions as he whips the barrel through the zone while generating loud contact. 

Big Moment: Was one of the top bats in the Underclass World Championships this past fall as he hit .400 with a couple of extra-base hits. Seemed to find a barrel with every cut. Was also a standout behind the dish as be blocked it up and left runners stranded. 

Bold Predictions: Helfrick has an unlimited ceiling from an offensive standpoint, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see him become one of the top bats in the class. Look for him to continue to be a defensive guru behind the dish and continue to tear up opposing pitching. 

Gut Feel Risers

Dillon Lester (Texas)
The Oklahoma commit generates a ton of bat speed out of his right-handed cut and seems to find more barrels than not. Athletic behind the dish and is versatile in his actions. The bat will carry him far going forward. 

Blake Mitchell (Texas)
Huge power potential as he utilizes a strong frame. Impacts out front and knows how to create leverage. The Louisiana State commit has long been known for his offensive potential but is also solid behind the dish as well. 

George Baker (Md.)
Has a large tool set that he puts to good use every time he steps on the field. Physical presence at 6-foot-1, 175 pounds and has a knack for finding barrels. Catch-and-release skills with a strong arm as he keeps runners honest on the paths. 

Macon Winslow (N.C.)
He's the top-ranked catcher in his state and for good reason. Fundamental behind the dish and carries a hot bat with him to the plate on offense. Overall polished prospect that is only going to continue to get better as time goes on. 

Brady Reynolds (Calif.)
The Stanford commit is a legit backstop behind the dish as he utilizes a great set of hands. Proved to have some feel in the box as well as he sprays it around. Did a great job handling a dominant pitching staff this past year. 

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