Baylor University (JR, 2019)
6’ 00”, 190 lbs
Birth Date: 11/18/1997
Hit- 40(50) Power- 45(55) Run- 40(40) Arm- 70(70) Field- 60(65)
As much as it has become a tired meme around the Snake Pit that the best way to attract Mike Hazen’s attention is to be a glove-first catcher, Arizona would be fortunate indeed if he were to grab glove-first catcher Shea Langeliers with the 16th pick of the draft.
Catchers that can both stick behind the plate and also hit well enough to reach the majors are notoriously hard to find and draft. Yet this year’s draft has not only one, but two catchers who are top talents in the draft. The overwhelming amount of attention for catchers is going to be on expected 1:1 pick, Adley Rutschman, considered the most complete catching prospect to hit the draft since Buster Posey. However, within an hour of Rutschman’s name being announced in the 2019 draft, fans can expect to hear another catcher’s name called, Baylor backstop, Shea Langeliers. Not to put too fine a point on things, but if not for Rutschman, Langeliers would be the most polished and complete catcher to enter the draft since Buster Posey, just with a different distribution of tools.
Langeliers is the team leader for the Baylor Bears. He is a jack-of-all-trades, providing leadership on the field, an impact bat in the middle of the order, elite defense behind the plate, and and overall superior attitude to the team. Langeliers had a down season as a Sophomore, struggling a bit at the plate. However, his stellar defense kept him in Baylor’s plans and he turned things around well his in his Junior year, despite missing a good portion of time due to a hamate bone fracture. Across 137 plate appearances this year, he has posted a .331/.404/.496 slash line with four home runs and three stolen bases. Furthermore, he has demonstrated the ability to hit the gaps both ways with almost half of his hits going for extra bases, including 21 home runs across 437 at-bats in his freshman and sophomore campaigns.
The 21-year-old doesn’t have any standout tools offensively, but he has the potential to be at least an average hitter with above-average power. He has relatively clean hitting mechanics which allow him to repeat his simple swing and to keep the bat in the zone for a long time. He stands crouched at the plate with his feet parallel to the pitcher, employing a small load and staying balanced through his swing. He keeps his hands tight, his weight back and his head on the ball, delivering a short, compact stroke and finishing with good arm extension. A quick bat and a good eye allow Langeliers to turn on fastballs inside and go the other way with pitches on the outer third, although he occasionally gets out in front of breaking balls. While he is not afraid to wait for his pitch, he can be a bit too selective at times. This in turn allows his maxed-out frame to help generate power. He is capable of remaining back on pitches and letting them come to him, but he also has a feel for turning on the ball if he likes the pitch. When pulling the ball for power, Langelier’s frame and arm strength create big, raw power.
On the bases, he does not possess overwhelming speed, but he’s not a liability and is athletic enough to keep pitchers honest. His home-to-first time is a perfectly acceptable 4.47 seconds. That athleticism helps him behind the plate as well, where he projects to be a difference maker at the next level. He’s very agile, dropping down quickly to block balls with both his body and his glove. He keeps everything in front of him and absorbs the ball well to keep pitches in the dirt from squirting away.
Langeliers is comfortable behind the plate, and while he doesn’t call his own games at Baylor (most catchers do not), he has been lauded for his leadership and rapport with his pitchers. He is an elite defender who offers up a clear target, receives the ball effortlessly and steals extra strikes with framing ability. His best tool is his plus-plus arm.
He controls the running game incredibly well, throwing out 33 of 53 potential base stealers (62.6 percent) since the start of his sophomore season. He possesses a lightning quick transfer with elite arm strength and accuracy, and even the threat of his arm is often sufficient enough to keep runners stationary. He is also adept at blocking the plate, securing the ball to make quick tags on incoming runners.
It is reasonable to believe that Langeliers could develop into a solid hitter with 15-20 homer pop, but even if his bat doesn’t make enough strides at the next level, the nation’s second-best catching prospect should have no trouble carving out an extended role in Major League Baseball given his defensive prowess. He is expected to come off the board in the first round, and could even hear his name called within the top 15 picks.
Projection: Elite defensive catcher who could move quickly through minor leagues.
Modern Comp: Wilson Contreras
Ceiling: Tony Peña/Bengie Molina
Floor: Jeff Mathis/Austin Hedges
If Langeliers somehow manages to slide to #16, the Diamondbacks should pounce on him and never look back. With as advanced as his tools are already, he could be in the majors in under three seasons. It is a rare thing to be able to draft an impact player at such an important position. Being able to do so when drafting 16th would make Langeliers a steal. Plenty of mock drafts have Langeliers between 12th and 18th. That puts the Diamondbacks solidly in the window. A great deal of whether or not he will be available will come down to early-selection draft strategies. While I do not expect Langeliers to have more than a 50% chance of sliding to #16, Arizona would be hard-pressed to find better talent at that point unless something truly unusual happens with the early picks. This is one of those few times where both the safe pick and the impact pick happen to be the same player.