High School | General | 4/16/2021

Summer Preview: 2025 Catchers

Jheremy Brown        
Photo: Darren Ledford (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
Class of 2023: Catchers
Class of 2024: Catchers

Darren Ledford (Okla.)
6-2/208, L/R
PG Events: 6
Key Stats: .478-1-15; 3 triples, 1.457 OPS

Short Story: Ledford is as physical a backstop as you’ll find at this age and he knows how to use his power offensively, showing a long and strong left-handed stroke that generates plenty of impact and leverage out front. He’s sound behind the plate with a strong arm down to second, but the bat is the reason why he’s currently the top-ranked backstop in the class. 

Big Moment: During the fall of 2019, Ledford made his presence felt with a single swing and continued to draw eyes with the separation in his swing and carry to all fields, setting the stage for what was to come the upcoming summer of 2020. He hit .375 on the tournament, picked up a couple of triples and drove in eight runs on the weekend. 

Bold Prediction: Ledford comes out even stronger in terms of physicality and shows an uptick in juice from what we saw while in his home state of Oklahoma for the 13u Select Festival. As he continues to grow into his body, you can expect further refined action behind the plate as well. 

Masa Chilcutt (Texas)
5-8/155, R-R
PG Events: 25
Key Stats: .350-1-17 in ’21; 6 triples, 15 stolen bases

Short Story: In terms of defensive actions, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better set of skills behind the dish at this age, though he’s just as impressive in the dirt which speaks to the overall athleticism Chilcutt brings to the diamond. There’s bounce to everything he does and the looseness of strength in his wrists allow him to not only excel behind the plate, but also in the batter’s box, where he has been on fire early in 2021. 

Big Moment: Chilcutt, who plays for the Banditos out of Texas, played up in last summer’s 14u World Series, similar to fellow Bandito backstop Cade Arrambide, who did the same a year prior. He’s continued to showcase his skill on both sides of the ball and recently stood out at the 14u South Showcase where he popped a 1.98, showed off excellent arm strength as well as the same loose and whippy right-handed swing. 

Bold Prediction: The young Texas native will continue to establish himself as the top defensive backstop in the country thanks to his flexible actions and advanced catch-and-throw skills. The offensive is ready taking off and he’ll continue to ride that momentum into all the major events.

Xavier Neyens (Wash.)
6-0/175, L-R
College Commitment: Oregon State
PG Events: 5
Key Stats: .391 career hitter in PG events

Short Story: Neyens is one of a handful of 2025 players to already commit to a college program, deciding to stay closer to home with the Oregon State Beavers. Athletically built at 6-foot, 175 pounds, Neyens’ left-handed stick is already capable of producing high exit velocities and his career batting average in PG events shows how frequently it plays in game, against high level competition. 

Big Moment: The future Beaver hit .300 or better in back-to-back tournaments which offered rather loaded talent pools, earning All-Tournament Team honors with Trosky Baseball at both the 2020 PG Fall National Championship as well as the South MLK Championship at the start of this season. 

Bold Prediction: Neyens is rostered for several big events this upcoming summer and given his talents on the diamond, he’s ready to make a splash on the national circuit, which will only further highlight his tools that currently have him ranked No. 19 in the country. 

Taylor Belza (Ohio)
6-0/183, L-R
PG Events: 8
Key Stats: .379-2-15 in PG career

Short Story: Offensive-minded backstops who can hit for juice from the left side seem to be a strong suit for the class already as Belza joins the likes of Ledford and Neyens. He’s able to create real barrel whip and leverage in his swing thanks to his quick hands, but Belza is just as impressive behind the plate with soft hands receiving and a strong, accurate arm down to second.

Big Moment: The 2021 14u East Showcase. Already a career .379 hitter, Belza made his showcase debut this past January and really put himself on the map with a strong showing on both sides of the ball. A top prospect in the event, Belza continued to show off his left-handed stick, but also opened eyes with his athleticism and actions behind the plate. 

Bold Prediction: There’s not much of a bold prediction to be made considering he’s already ranked No. 41 in the country, but Belza will likely go up against some of the top tier arms in the class and he has the type of strength to change the course of a game rather quickly.

Carson Quillen (Tenn.)
5-10/190, R-R
PG Events:
Key Stats: 14 K in 5.2 IP/.520-1-11 w/ 11 stolen bags in ’21

Short Story: Of the top-five ranked catchers in the class, Quillen is the youngest of them all, having suited up in last year’s inaugural 12u Select Festival, but he might also be the stronger of them all despite his age. Whether it’s behind the plate, at third base or even on the mound, Quillen stands out for what he brings to the diamond both defensively and with his arm strength (75 mph from behind the plate), as well as with his right-handed swing, which is off to a hot start in 2021. 

Big Moment: Despite being 12u eligible last circuit season, Quillen played up at the 13u level for the majority of the year and is rostered to do the same again, playing against his grad year rather than his age group. That said, he was handed the ball to start the game for the East team in the 12u Select Festival, delivering the first ever pitch in an event that will only grow every year moving forward. 

Bold Prediction: Quillen is going to continue to impress all over the field this summer and despite his physicality, he’s going to surprise with his overall athleticism, already running a 7.2 in the 60-yard. He has bat speed and juice, as well as the aforementioned arm strength, to make an impact in a variety of ways, even if he’s playing up this circuit season. 

Names to Know

Trent Grindlinger (Calif.)
Grindlinger is yet another physical backstop to monitor heading into the spring as he’s already showing solid catch-and-throw skills from behind the plate, though it’s the bat that’s his loudest tool. At 5-foot-11, 180 pounds Grindlinger is off to a hot start in 2021 with a .484/.587/1.103 slash across a couple tournaments while showing off a simple, yet powerful swing during the California Workout Camp, driving balls to either gap with a balance stroke. 

Sean Ashenfelder (Fla.)
Similar to Quillen above, Ashenfelder is a 2025 graduate whose age will allow him to play at the 13u level, though his skill already has him ranked No. 65 in the country amongst ‘25s. His overall athleticism and versatility allow him to stand out all over the field defensively whether behind the plate, in the dirt or roaming the outfield. A near .500 career hitter in PG events, his innate feel for finding the barrel is evident, exhibiting quick hands and the hand-eye coordination to consistently square the ball up. 

Reagan McCluskey (Calif.)
The second California pitch-caller on the list, McCluskey is just as physical as Grindlinger at a listed 5-foot-11, 185 pounds and he knows how to incorporate his size into his offensive approach. Staying shorter and direct to the ball, the strength in his hands is apparent and allows him to drive the ball to all fields while showcasing a keen awareness of the strike zone while in the box. Behind the plate, McCluskey shows a quick release with nice carry and accuracy on this throwing, rounding out his profile. 

Jay O'Neal (Ga.)
While O’Neal’s present profile has his defense ahead of his offense, by no means does that mean he isn’t already impressing, capturing the eye of onlookers for what he brings behind the plate. At 6-foot-1, 175 pounds, O’Neal is a long and athletic backstop who shows advanced receiving and throwing skills behind the plate, standing out amongst his peers though he’s also coming off a 2020 in which he hit .344 for the East Cobb Astros. 

Omar Serna (Texas)
Serna was a star of the recent 14u South Showcase as he hadn’t previously been ranked but certainly put his name on the national scene with his overall performance. A primary catcher with big arm strength both behind the plate (77 mph), as well as on the mound (85 mph), Serna put his arm on display in Tomball alongside his right-handed swing which offers barrel whip and separation, resulting in some loud contact to his pull side. 

Ethan Salas (Venezuela)
Perfect Game’s rankings only includes players from the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico, but if we’re looking at some of the top backstops at the 14u level, we’d be falling short if we failed to mention Ethan Salas. A top international prospect who geared up for last year’s 13u Select Festival, Salas possesses top of the charts abilities behind the plate from his overall flexibility to the softness of his hands and high level catch-and-throw skills. On top of what Salas brings to behind the plate, he’s just as impressive with the stick from the left side with blossoming power and a loose, fluid stroke. 
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