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Twins Daily Draft Preview: Zack Collins

It’s been fifteen years since the Twins called a catcher’s name in the first round of the Major League Baseball draft.

Though it doesn’t seem likely that the streak will come to an end next week, the first catcher to be selected will probably be Zack Collins from the University of Miami.
Image courtesy of Richard Lewis / Miami Athletics
WHO IS HE?

Zack Collins is an offensive-minded catcher.

So far in 2016, Collins has hit .364/.540/.630 (1.170). He and the rest of the Hurricanes will begin their postseason hosting on Friday evening in the Coral Gables Region.

It’s not a one-year thing either. Collins has hit double-digit home runs in each of his three seasons. He’s increased his batting average, on-base percentage and slugging in each season, though his lowest OPS (as a freshman) was still a robust .983.

Impressively, Collins has walked more times (165) than he’s struck out (155) as a collegiate.

One mark against Collins - and it’s a tiny one - is that in his limited exposure to wood-bat leagues - the Cape Cod League in 2015 - he struggled in 13 at-bats. It’s a tiny sample, but the Twins have always kept a close eye on how players perform in that league.

WHY THE TWINS WILL DRAFT HIM

The bat is powerful and elite. Collins has the 39th-highest slugging percentage in the nation. Not many of the 38 above him are from power conferences. Not many above him put the catching gear on.

We’ve seen teams - such as the Cubs - take impactful bats in the draft recently even though those bats came with defensive question marks. Kyle Schwarber, a “catcher” in college, played less than 150 minor league games before getting the call to the Bigs. Why did he get that call? Because he had posted an OPS over 1.000 in four of the five levels he made stops at.

Who does Collins get compared to the most? Schwarber, of course. Defensive questions or not, Schwarber posted a 1.2 WAR in less than 70 games in 2015.

Any lineup could use a bat like Collins. A catcher who could add that much offensive potential to a lineup would be fantastic...

WHY THE TWINS WON'T DRAFT HIM

...but he’s not likely to stick at catcher.

Collins has shown a significant amount of improvement behind the plate. But most scouts don’t think he’ll ever be more than an average defender, if he’s even that good. One suggested that he could maybe be a “(Steven) Vogt-type if he hits enough.”

Athletically, Collins is average at best. Though he has plenty of arm strength, his receiving needs a lot of work.

For an organization that doesn’t have a clear long-term answer behind the plate, it would be difficult to make a $2.8m bet that he’ll stick and provide the team with a solution for the future. If you miss, you’re stuck with a(nother) first baseman.

Attached Image: Collins_RL24312.jpg
Image courtesy of Richard Lewis / Miami Athletics

Collins has been all over in recent mock drafts, going as high as #10 overall in Baseball America’s most recent mock and as low as #19 in Keith Law’s last projection. I had him going to the Mariners at #11 in my second mock draft.

The last communication I got about Collins was that he was an “offensive force” but the Twins appeared to be “targeting a different batch of players.”

But if that “batch” prices themselves out of the Twins range and Collins is still available, who knows...?

Other draft-related articles:
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Zack Burdi


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18 Comments

If he could sniff an 800 OPS, how awful would he have to be behind the plate for the bat to not offset the glove?
    • d-mac likes this
It won't let me edit on mobile. So to add to my comment above, our current catcher throws out runners at a 15 to 20 percent clip. And has an OPS between 550 and 600. So how bad would the guy be?
    • bluechipper and d-mac like this

Well worth the risk if you ask me. Is it harder to develop hitting skills or receiving skills? Worst case scenario he takes over for Mauer when his contract is up. Or maybe DH/back up catcher.

    • bluechipper and d-mac like this
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nicksaviking
Jun 01 2016 06:58 PM
If they pick a bat, I want the best bat available regardless of position. He might be it.

And as others pointed out, an average to below average defensive catcher is just fine if his bat plays. This team already has a poor defensive catcher, and he doesn't hit.
    • gunnarthor, bluechipper, HitInAPinch and 2 others like this
I would like a bat. This one looks good as any at that point.
    • d-mac likes this
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diehardtwinsfan
Jun 02 2016 07:12 AM

he will likely be gone by the time we pick.

    • gunnarthor likes this
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Jeremy Nygaard
Jun 02 2016 07:12 AM

 

If they pick a bat, I want the best bat available regardless of position. He might be it.

And as others pointed out, an average to below average defensive catcher is just fine if his bat plays. This team already has a poor defensive catcher, and he doesn't hit.

 

Fair enough. But the Twins had a bat-first (and maybe bat-only) catcher before that put up a 162-game average over 2 big league seasons of 23 HRs, 50 XBH and a triple-slash of .257/.339/.445 (.784). His name was Josmil Pinto and pitchers hated throwing to him.

 

I think Collins should be at least comparable with the bat and hopefully better with the glove, but the Twins couldn't find a spot for him.

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Jeremy Nygaard
Jun 02 2016 07:23 AM

 

he will likely be gone by the time we pick.

 

Probably over 50% chance he's gone, but mostly because of the complete lack of college hitters. 

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nicksaviking
Jun 02 2016 07:59 AM

 

Fair enough. But the Twins had a bat-first (and maybe bat-only) catcher before that put up a 162-game average over 2 big league seasons of 23 HRs, 50 XBH and a triple-slash of .257/.339/.445 (.784). His name was Josmil Pinto and pitchers hated throwing to him.

 

I think Collins should be at least comparable with the bat and hopefully better with the glove, but the Twins couldn't find a spot for him.

 

There's a danger there, but frankly, if the pitchers are running the ship, it's time to change captains. Perkins publicly skewered Pinto to the point where there was no chance of redemption for him and it was a total bush league play by Perkins. Suzuki is not a good catcher and the pitchers seem to like him. I think there's something more in play than just defensive liability. If I were to guess, I'd think the pitchers resented Pinto's inexperience as much as anything.

 

Also, if Collins is the best bat available, then his offense may play at a corner spot too. I don't care what position he plays, if the team goes offense, I want the guy who's bat is most likely to be a difference maker.

    • d-mac likes this

 

Fair enough. But the Twins had a bat-first (and maybe bat-only) catcher before that put up a 162-game average over 2 big league seasons of 23 HRs, 50 XBH and a triple-slash of .257/.339/.445 (.784). His name was Josmil Pinto and pitchers hated throwing to him.

 

I think Collins should be at least comparable with the bat and hopefully better with the glove, but the Twins couldn't find a spot for him.

Is that a fair comparison to Collins defensive abilities? Josmil Pinto? You mentioned in the article that Collins has plenty of arm strength. Pinto had a noodle arm who let base runners steal at will... 

    • nicksaviking likes this

Pinto's bat was never quite enough to move beyond catcher - Collins bat is supposed to be better than that.  But I don't think Collins makes it to 15.  

    • nicksaviking and markos like this
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Jeremy Nygaard
Jun 02 2016 08:26 AM

 

Is that a fair comparison to Collins defensive abilities? Josmil Pinto? You mentioned in the article that Collins has plenty of arm strength. Pinto had a noodle arm who let base runners steal at will... 

 

It's probably not a fair comparison, but I was considering the first post that asked how bad the D could be if you're posting an 800 OPS. 

As I recall, Perkins complained about his receiving skills more than his arm.

 

Even if he's Kyle Schwarber, I still don't think the Twins would stick him behind the plate. So that leads to another post - play him at a corner spot... sure, but athletically he's almost certainly limited to first base. There are very few first basemen I would ever draft in the top 15.

It's probably not a fair comparison, but I was considering the first post that asked how bad the D could be if you're posting an 800 OPS. 
As I recall, Perkins complained about his receiving skills more than his arm.
 
Even if he's Kyle Schwarber, I still don't think the Twins would stick him behind the plate. So that leads to another post - play him at a corner spot... sure, but athletically he's almost certainly limited to first base. There are very few first basemen I would ever draft in the top 15.


I am going to attempt to compare the two players, using Kurt Suzuki as our baseline. He is the starting catcher right now and as I look into our system, I don’t see anyone who will likely be meaningfully better than him.

Last year Suzuki had 470 AB with an OPS of .610 (which is actually better than his 2016 thus far). He had 136 total bases and 29 BB’s, so I am using a number of 165. He hit .240.

I will use an offensive comp of Christian Yelich. He had 476 AB with an OPS of .782 in 2015. 198 TB and 47 BB’s (245 total). He hit .300 and was on base 36.6% of the time.

So the offensive edge would be 80 additional bases a year. 25% more hits, i.e. increase in times advancing or driving in runners as well as being knocked in himself. Yelich did score 27 more runs (although I get that is dependent upon other people). The 63 he put up actually seems pretty low given his offensive numbers. He scored 93 times in 2014 with a lower OPS albeit 90 more AB’s.

That seems like a really huge increase in offense. An edge in pitch framing, “managing the pitchers”, throwing out runners, and passed balls would seem very difficult to prove out an offset to the offensive numbers. Especially when the incumbent is not particularly good at a few of these things to begin with.

All I would simply ask out of the Twins is running some similar and obviously more detailed analysis. For all I know Goin’s team has, but then I would ask that the FO actually read and consider it. The A's likely figured that out with Vogt, he had an OPS of .783 last year and over 440 AB's was worth 3.1 wins offensively.
    • d-mac likes this

Will NCAA ever just move to using wood bats?It seems logical from the standpoint that guys who have a chance to get drafted and have a career in professional baseball will be able to show their true hitting ability.I understand 90% of the players will not sniff pros, and will struggle but from a safety standpoint as well as projection standpoint it seems like this would be a logical step.

Hey if he can hit, draft him. if the Twins still don't like him at catcher, then trade him later. Not that difficult of a concept to grasp. Just requires an ounce of creative planning and forethought to pull off. But the Twins can't afford to just be business as usual if they want to turn things around.

Hey if he can hit, draft him. if the Twins still don't like him at catcher, then trade him later. Not that difficult of a concept to grasp. Just requires an ounce of creative planning and forethought to pull off. But the Twins can't afford to just be business as usual if they want to turn things around.


Yeah. Grab potentially the best hitter at 15th overall sounds like a win.
    • d-mac likes this

 

Will NCAA ever just move to using wood bats?It seems logical from the standpoint that guys who have a chance to get drafted and have a career in professional baseball will be able to show their true hitting ability.I understand 90% of the players will not sniff pros, and will struggle but from a safety standpoint as well as projection standpoint it seems like this would be a logical step.

I thought I read somewhere that the cost of wooden bats is the reason the colleges won't go to them.  For all the money they'll put into football, baseball doesn't get much - it's not a good revenue sport.  So metal bats save the teams several thousands of dollars each year.

 

Impressively, Collins has walked more times (165) than he’s struck out (155) as a collegiate.

This is a really good sign. I can't find the study right now, but someone went through all college hitters drafted in top of the first round over the past ten years or so. Strikeout-to-walk ratio is as good as you can get for a single, simple predictor. 1:1 or better, and they hit in the majors. Worse than that, and they were busts. 


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