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Mariners 2020 draft preview: Patrick Bailey

You can never have too many catchers

NCAA BASEBALL: JUN 02 Div 1 Championship Greenville Regional - East Carolina v North Carolina State Photo by Greg Thompson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

First, dramatic news from the desk of TANKWATCH 2020:

After being comfortably ensconced in 6th position for weeks and even sliding into 5th recently as the Blue Jays went on a mini-surge, series wins against both the Rays and those self-same Blue Jays, combined with the relentless ineptitude of the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, has pushed the Mariners back to the seven slot. Friends, my Jared Kelley dreams are evaporating before my eyes and I am VEXED. I am happy the Mariners are playing fun baseball and all but can they save the winning for when they are at home in front of Mariners fans instead of doing their best tricks for empty seats under artificially-lit domes? Would ONE LOUSY WIN on Edgar Weekend have been so much to ask?

So, the dream of a top-5 pick appears to be fluttering away. But fear not, as this draft continues to appear stacked. The other day Jim Callis over at MLB ordered himself a sarsaparilla instead of his regular root beer and issued the SPICY take that this draft would be the best since 2011—you know, the draft that gave us Lindor, Cole, Javy Baez, Bauer, Rendon, Springer, and Jose Fernandez all in the first round alone (and gave the Mariners...Danny Hultzen. Sigh.). Personally I think that’s a little bit of an over-correction to how shallow last year’s draft class was, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see 2018’s draft produce more than the average number of big-leaguers, but it gives you a sense of how evaluators view this class. There’s no slam-dunk Adley Rutschman-type in 2020’s class but the talent is spread out more, and more evenly split among college and prep players.

Okay! Sorry to the regular readers of this series, who know all of this already, but at this point in time the draft takes up approximately .0002% of space in most baseball fan’s brains and 200% of mine, so I take it as my solemn duty to bang the 2020 drum early and often so when the time comes to get excited, all the decorations will be up and the food will be made and everyone can just roll in and party.

After going prep-heavy the last week with the Perfect Game showcase writeup, this week we return to the college ranks and for the first time look at a catcher: NC State’s Patrick Bailey. Bailey isn’t the slam-dunk prospect fellow college catcher Adley Rutschman was, but he shares many of the same attributes and has earned many of the same accolades as 2019’s first overall pick, including being selected to Team USA as both a high schooler and a collegiate and named to Golden Spikes and Buster Posey Award watchlists.

Well-regarded as a defensive catcher out of high school, teams chose to pass on the 175-lb. North Carolina native and his strong commitment to NC State until a courtesy selection from the Twins in the 37th round in 2017. Once a member of the Wolfpack, Bailey went on to win ACC Freshman of the Year, slashing .321/.419/.604. He didn’t quite repeat those torrid numbers as a sophomore, but still came close to a .300/.400/.500 slash line. A switch-hitter (#SwitchHittingCatcher alert), Bailey has shown to have power from both sides, and he walks almost as often as he strikes out. His swing looks very similar from both sides of the plate, incorporating a high leg kick and a sharp upward plane. Personally, I think he looks slightly more natural from the right side.

Here is an epic moonshot bomb he hit this past season, with an equally epic bat flip:

Why aren’t more people talking about this bat flip? Do you know when I googled/Twitter searched “Patrick Bailey batflip” not a darn thing came up? NC State fans, either you are asleep at the wheel or need some nice person to teach you how to make GIFs.

Where Bailey distinguishes himself as the consensus best college catching prospect is with his defense. Bailey is mostly praised for his receiving abilities; he’s a good framer and is a wall behind the plate, despite not being the biggest guy. Bailey is a plus athlete, highly mobile behind the dish. He also possesses an above-average (although not elite) arm:

Personally, I’m not as high on Bailey as some of the other early-first round talents in this draft class, but high school catchers are frighteningly high-risk and Bailey is probably the best overall catching prospect in this draft, which has a certain cache. If the Mariners do wind up picking towards the back of the top 10, they could definitely do worse than Bailey.