Player: Nick Ciuffo
Drafted by: Tampa Bay Rays (No. 21 Overall)
DOB: 3/7/1995 (Age: 18)
Height/Weight: 6'1"/200 lbs
School: Lexington HS (Charleston, S.C.)
College Commitment: South Carolina
A very rare breed, Ciuffo has the potential to be an offensive catcher with solid defensive chops. Finding that kind of prospect at the high school ranks is unusual, as most players are moved off the position to make sure their bat advances through the minors quickly.
He played in the National High School Invitational event last year, showcasing plus power and a strong throwing arm that moved him into the first-round mix for this draft. His frame is ideal for a catcher at the highest level. Ciuffo is committed to play baseball at South Carolina.
Full Scouting Report
Note: Numerical scores are on the conventional 20-80 scouting scale, where 50 is average, with the current score first and projected score second.
Approach at the plate leaves something to be desired, though not an uncommon trait in high school players; needs to drive the ball to the opposite field more; short stroke with ability to get head through the zone quickly and make solid contact; struggles to recognize off-speed stuff out of pitcher's hand; clean swing with bat speed leads to potential for average hit tool.
Shows above-average raw power with some difficulty translating into games; has the upside to hit 20 home runs, but will have to prove he can hit enough to get there; lack of stride gives him more line-drive power in game action; hit tool will be main deterrent from reaching full power potential at next level.
Plate Discipline: 40/50
Shows solid eye at the plate presently; off-speed stuff will fool him early until he acclimates to advanced pitching; flaws in hit tool revolve more around some swing mechanics than poor recognition; going to hit premium velocity thanks to quick swing and bat path.
Typical running speed for catcher, well below average for other positions; won't be more than station-to-station runner; baseball instincts might help him steal a handful of bases; age and catching will likely decrease speed slightly.
Best defensive catcher among high school crop; shows plus arm strength; athleticism behind plate with ability to block balls; excellent receiver and framer; learning to call games will be biggest adjustment; above-average defender in time.
Best tool; registers quick pop times behind the plate; clocked under 1.85 seconds; arm strength is easily plus; accuracy is solid; sets himself very well; little stride needed to get ball out of glove; quick, short release.
MLB Player Comparison: Alex Avila
Projection: First-division catcher with above-average defense and plus power. Occasional All-Star.
MLB ETA: 2018
Chances of Signing: 80%
It doesn't seem likely that Ciuffo will ever make it to the University of South Carolina. Moving to college could be beneficial for his hit tool, to go against advanced arms, but it could also expose some of the flaws discussed and drop him down draft boards in three years.
In a draft loaded with high school catching, at least in the early rounds, Ciuffo has moved to the head of the class. He has the upside and present stuff, so he will have the offer that entices him to stay away from the Gamecocks.