LOD’s 2018 Top Prospects: Washington Nationals – Catcher
During the 2017-2018 offseason, we here at LOD are putting together a different kind of prospect list than you’re used to seeing. As opposed to typical prospect rankings, we are going position by position to give you the names to look out for in the upcoming season. Keep checking back to see if your favorite player makes our 2018 Top Prospect Team. You can view previous team previews by Clicking Here.
Yesterday we gave you LOD’s pick for the top pitching prospects to look out for in 2018 from the Washington Nationals organization. Today we take a look at the other half of the battery and give you our pick for the catcher to keep an eye on in the upcoming season.
Catcher – Taylor Gushue – 2017 Teams: Harrisburg (Double-A), Potomac (Advanced-A)
2017 Statistics: .236/.321/.424, .745 OPS, 18 HR, 67 RBI
While “catchers take longer to develop” is a modern day baseball cliche, it’s true. It is the most taxing position on the diamond, obviously pitcher’s elbows excluded, and it requires a wide skill set with many of those skills being unique to the position. Even after a catcher has spent years and years honing their craft, many of them either end up being a defense first guy, or a power hitter that lacks the defensive ability to stay at the position.
Enter Taylor Gushue. Gushue was selected as LOD’s top Nationals catching prospect because he can bring value both at the plate and behind it. I’m very big on catcher defense, especially framing, and I understand that a lot of times guys have to make sacrifices with the bat. Teams are okay with that now-a-days because they understand the value of the position defensively. However, Gushue, up to this point in his career, is giving the Nationals reason to believe he can be an all around catcher.
Gushue was a stand out at the University of Florida and as a result, the Pittsburgh Pirates took him in the fourth round of the 2014 draft. After a great pro debut in short season, 2015 and 2016 didn’t see the results the young catcher was hoping for, at least in the stat columns.
The Pirates dealt Gushue to the Nationals prior to the 2017 season and that is when things turned around. In his 91 games with High-A Potomac, the Florida native slugged .437 with 18 homers while nearly doubling his walk rate from the first three years of his pro career.
The switch hitter just turned 24 this offseason and while he has proven he can post the offensive numbers we look for in a power hitter, he adds even more to his value because of his defense. He has great receiving skills and arm strength while showing promising development in his footwork and ability to block balls in the dirt.
A polished SEC catcher, Gushue brings it all to the table. As he continues to work his way up the minor league ladder, his ability to call games will improve. If he can master that and couple it with his pure baseball ability, he will make some noise in the Nats system. Gushue should find his way to the 40 man roster in the very near future.